Royal treatment for HIV/AIDS

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It’s Gay Pride Week in Oslo, and efforts to make life easier for all those affected by HIV/AIDS are literally getting royal treatment. Crown Princess Mette-Marit has emerged as a local and international activist, working to ease discrimination against those who’ve tested HIV positive.

Norway’s crown princess has travelled around the world as a special envoy for the United Nations HIV/AIDS program (UNAIDS) for the past two years. This week, HIV activists from around the world came to her, to take part in a three-day conference aimed at tackling discrimination and prejudice.

Mette-Marit and her husband Crown Prince Haakon helped host the conference, called the “Young Leaders’ Summit II,” spearheaded by the international group aids2031 along with UNAIDS and Norway’s foreign ministry. Last year’s conference was held in San Francisco and this year, 30 young leaders traveled to Oslo to find ways of raising awareness of the discrimination those with HIV/AIDS face and how to stop it.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit was keeping a high profile all week, opening a photo exhibit on HIV at Oslo’s Stenersen Museum on Saturday called “Access to Life,” arranging the showings of a BBC documentary on HIV at Vika Cinema all week from Monday, then opening the Young Leaders’ Summit on Tuesday, attending a reception in Oslo’s City Hall to boost HIV support and an annual garden party sponsored by Aksept, the support center for those affected by HIV in Oslo.

Mette-Marit has been working quietly as a volunteer for Aksept for the past two years, and says that’s where she’s learned the most about how HIV affects peoples’ lives.

“My work to fight prejudice against HIV and AIDS has just kept growing since 2001,” she told newspaper Aftenposten . “It’s really nice, all the things that are happening this week. The conference with the young leaders, all of whom I’ve met before, is the highlight.”

She’s also proud of a civic campaign during Gay Pride Week called Byen bryr seg (roughly, “The city cares”). She admits to having had prejudices herself.

“I think you have to reflect over the prejudices you have yourself, and fight them,” she said. “I think it’s very nice that I’ve been allowed to do this kind of work.”

Crown Prince Haakon has also been active during Gay Pride Week, attending among other things a conference on transsexuality on Saturday. Special events are taking place through Sunday, highlighted by a Gay Pride Parade in Oslo on Saturday led by the city government leader Erling Lae, who’s openly gay himself.