Thursday, November 22, 2007

Queen shakes hand of HIV patient

The Queen meets HIV patients

The Queen meets Steven and Grace Wakodo who are both HIV positive.

The Queen has shaken hands with an HIV patient while touring an Aids clinic during her state visit to Uganda.

Dozens of children and adults living with the virus were met by the monarch at treatment facilities established by the UK-based Aids charity Mildmay.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh saw an outpatients clinic and a newly expanded children's hospital in the country's capital, Kampala.

The Queen described Mildmay's work in Uganda as "impressive".

The handshake came when the Queen met Steven Wakodo, who is HIV positive and has been treated at the facility on a monthly basis since 2002.

The Queen was introduced to Mr Wakodo and stretched out her arm to shake his hand as he gave a short bow of his head.

A Mildmay staff member explained the medical history of the 40-year-old, who was joined by his 35-year-old wife, Grace, and 13-year-old daughter, Winternahwama - both of whom also have the virus - and his five-month-old daughter, Austraunt.

The handshake is likely to evoke memories of Diana, Princess of Wales, who famously punctured early myths about HIV by holding hands with a man with Aids on his sickbed in the late 1980s.

Music and dance

As the royal party toured the outpatient clinic's complex of buildings, they smiled as they were given a traditional welcome of high pitched yelps from staff and visitors.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh

The Queen and Duke watch an orphan performing at the HIV centre

Ruth Sims, a vice-president of Mildmay and founder of the Ugandan centre and hospital, said she wanted to show a different side to HIV patients.

She organised a number of colourful displays of African music and dance to contrast with negative impressions of those with HIV.

"I wanted to show these are normal children. What does it matter what they have got - you can treat them and they can get better," she said.

"I told the Queen that we tried to give her something that was different and that she would enjoy. She said to me, 'This is certainly different and I do enjoy it'."

Commonwealth leaders

The Queen is due to address the Ugandan parliament during her visit and attend a state banquet at the president's residence.

She is in the country ahead of Friday's Commonwealth heads of government meeting.

The conference, which is held every two years, is expected to be dominated by the state of emergency in Pakistan.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be joined later by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who are also making an official visit to the country.

It will be the first time Prince Charles has been to a gathering of Commonwealth leaders held abroad.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Queen shakes hand of HIV patient