Prince Harry and Meghan Markle encourage donations to HIV charity as wedding gift

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have encouraged well-wishers to donate to an HIV charity in their name rather than send wedding presents.

Prince Harry, the fifth-in-line to the throne, is set to marry Suits actress Meghan Markle on May 19 in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Ahead of the wedding, the pair released a statement encouraging people to donate to a number of charities relating to causes they are passionate about.

Included among the list is an HIV charity. Prince Harry has done a lot of advocacy on HIV/AIDS over the past few years, following in the footsteps of his mother, the late Princess Diana.

The royal previously said the issue “needs a straight guy, mid-30s, to come in and try and normalise it.” His first official engagement alongside Ms Markle was a visit to HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, where he met with people living with HIV.

Prince Harry whispers to Meghan Markle as they watch a dance performance by Jukebox Collective in the banqueting hall during a visit to Cardiff Castle, January 18, 2018. (Ben Birchall/Getty Images)

A statement from Kensington Palace said: “Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill shown to them since the announcement of their engagement and are keen that as many people as possible benefit from this generosity of spirit.

“The couple have therefore asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion considers making a donation to charity, rather than sending a wedding gift.

“Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have personally selected seven organisations they would like to support, reflecting their shared values.

“Prince Harry and Ms. Markle do not have any formal relationships with the charities chosen. The couple have chosen charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.

“Many of these are small charities, and the couple are pleased to be able to amplify and shine a light on their work.”

Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle attend a street dance class during their visit to Star Hub on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Geoff Pugh/Getty)

The HIV charity selected is CHIVA, the Children’s HIV Association, which “supports children growing up with HIV and their families across the UK and Ireland.”

Dr Amanda Williams, Chair of CHIVA, said: “We are delighted and honoured that Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle have chosen to recognise our work supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people living with HIV in the UK and Ireland.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of the complex issues for young people growing up with HIV. We are a very small charity and through our work we support over 1,000 young people living with HIV.

“All donations will make a significant difference to our programmes of work and lead to direct improvements in the lives of these young people.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended a World AIDS Day event together in December – their first joint royal engagement.

The pair were photographed sporting red World AIDS Day ribbons as they spoke to the crowd.

(Photo by Adrian Dennis – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prince Harry said: “We mustn’t be complacent. We’ve got everything here: all the equipment, all the testing ability.

“We owe it to this generation to be able to eradicate this once and for all.”

Andrew Bates, a gay man living with HIV who met the prince at the launch of HIV testing week last month, was able to speak to him about coming out.

He said: “He seems to genuinely care about the work that he does and the people that he speaks to, so it was my pleasure to open up about areas such as coming out as gay, the struggle of coming to terms with having HIV and the idea of living the rest of your life with a chronic illness.

“Not only was this conversation therapeutic for myself, but being able to discuss such matters with an individual in such high places was exactly what I aimed to achieve, and more, when I spoke out about my HIV diagnosis and decided to campaign for the Terrence Higgins Trust.”

The prince also made history by accepting an award from gay magazine Attitude celebrating his mother’s legacy on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

In a moving speech Prince Harry said: “In April 1987, my mother was only 25 years old.

“She was still finding her way in public life, but she already felt a responsibility to shine her spotlight on the people and issues that were often ignored.

“She knew that AIDS was one of the things that many wanted to ignore and seemed like a hopeless challenge.

“She knew that the misunderstanding of this relatively new disease was creating a dangerous situation when mixed with homophobia.”

“She knew exactly what she was doing.

“She was using her position of princess of Wales – the most famous woman in the world – to challenge everyone to educate themselves; to find their compassion; and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.”