Twenty years have passed since Diana, Princess of Wales, was tragically killed in a car accident in Paris, France.
During her lifetime, the Princess dedicated much of her time to helping those less fortunate, drawing global attention to causes close to her heart in order to raise awareness and enact change.
Through media coverage of her work, she helped to start conversations and change attitudes towards conditions like HIV/AIDS and leprosy.
During the mid-1980s, a global lack of conversation about HIV/AIDS was causing a lack of understanding of the condition, and reinforcing existing stigma and prejudice towards gay men. Many world leaders shied away from talking about the HIV epidemic as tens of thousands of people lay dying.
In April 1987—when many people didn’t understand that HIV couldn’t be contracted through skin-on-skin contact—Princess Diana shook the hand of a patient living with the condition in front of the world’s media.
That day, Princess Diana opened the UK’s first purpose-built HIV/Aids unit, which exclusively cared for patients with the condition at London Middlesex Hospital.
She visited hospitals at home and abroad and was photographed holding hands and talking with patients. Activists believe these small acts helped change attitudes towards HIV/AIDS and a crucial point in history.
Diana helped raise global awareness of the impact of landmines by visiting those living with life-changing injuries sustained as a result of the devices.
On 15 Jan. 1997—the year that Princess Diana died—she walked through an active minefield in Angola and detonated a mine in front of a crowd of reporters with the assistance of a land mine expert.
After three decades of civil war in the African country, Angola’s countryside was littered with millions of landmines which were indiscriminately killing and harming civilians.
At the time of Diana’s visit to Angola, 71 countries around the world had landmines. While there, Diana championed the Ottawa Treaty, the aim of which was to eliminate anti-personnel landmines around the world. To date, there are 162 member states committed to the treaty.
In the late 1980s, Princess Diana helped dispel one of the myths surrounding leprosy—that it can be contracted by touch. Activists say Diana made “huge strides” in tackling the stigma surrounding leprosy by touching those affected by the condition.
In November 1989, Princess Diana visited Sitanala Leprosy Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, against the advice of officials. She sat on the beds of patients, shook hands with them and touched their bandaged wounds to draw attention to the myth surrounding the condition.
Princess Diana drew attention to causes at home and abroad, and became renowned for her hands-on approach with those affected by war and illness.
In July 1993, Princess Diana helped serve food at the Nemazura feeding centre, a Red Cross project for refugees in Zimbabwe.
Compassion towards the sick
In 1996, Princess Diana was photographed in tears as she cradled a sick child during a visit to Imran Khan’s cancer hospital in Lahore, Pakistan.
In 1992, Princess Diana visited Mother Theresa’s Hospice in Calcutta, India, and tended to dying patients.
Twenty years on from her death, Princess Diana’s legacy of kindness and humanity lives on through the work of her sons William and Harry, who continue to champion some of the causes dear to their mother’s heart.