Shake of the hand that showed Diana cared…

Thirty four years ago, Princess Diana shook hands with a HIV positive director of a new AIDS centre before heading inside for a private tour, writes Claudia Lee.

This was the first attempt to change public attitudes on the condition by a high profile member of the Royal Family.

Photographers and fans snapped the moment the Princess of Wales opened the Landmark Centre in Tulse Hill in 1989.

Mr Grimshaw said: “The princess was genuinely moved by the difficulties facing patients.”

Aids – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – was first recognised as a medical condition in the US in 1981.

The old Landmark address in Tulse Hill, now a family day centre. Picture: Google Street View

Within two years the Government launched the “Don’t Die of Ignorance” public awareness campaign and Princess Diana opened the country’s first Aids ward at Middlesex Hospital.

By 1983, scientists had already concluded that the disease could not be transmitted through casual contact, but the public had become terrified.

In taking Mr Grimshaw’s hand, the princess challenged the public’s irrational fear.

The Landmark was set up to offer those with HIV and AIDS with refuge, advice and support on issues from housing to dietary needs.

A poster for the centre explained that facilities included a library, TV, video, laundry facilities, a garden and importantly, “a good and friendly atmosphere”.

The Princess of Wales laughs with her friend and AIDS victim Aileen Getty as they visit a centre together in central London Picture: PA

At the Landmark you could receive advice on money and housing as well as nursing consultations, social work and counselling.

Princess Diana spent an hour in the community-based centre and joined in a discussion group with some of the first clients to use the facility.

Diana visited a number of AIDS clinics around London including the London Lighthouse centre in Lancaster Road, Ladbroke Grove.

The Princess’ work in de-stigmatising the illness was recognised by the National Aids Trust with the first Diana Princess of Wales Lecture on Aids, given in 1999.

Early in 2001 the services provided by Landmark were integrated with Lighthouse, part of the Terrence Higgins Trust, and became known as Lighthouse South London. The facility moved to Waterloo in the summer of 2002.


Picture: The Princess of Wales shaking hands with William Drake, a patient at London Lighthouse Aids Centre Picture: PA

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