BY YVETTE TWAGIRAMARIYA
LONDON- A lot of people have been asking me what it was like to meet Prince Harry. I always say: “The most exciting experience of my life” and I always add “Now, I know why African women like him so much!”.
I met Prince Harry on his last royal visit (as a single man) at the opening of an HIV self-test pop-up shop in Hackney, London last year (2017).
I had to demonstrate for him how the self-testing kit works at home, by performing a live test on national TV stations. It was for the 2017 UK National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) campaign.
Terrence Higgins Trust, also known as THT, is a UK charity organisation that promotes the benefits of regular HIV testing and treatment for both the individual and the community. It’s in the hope to eradicate the stigma around HIV.
I have been working for the charity as a volunteer for the past 3 years and I became one of the faces of the campaign for the first time two years ago.
I had no other motivation but to encourage my community to go and get tested, as over 60 percent of HIV affected people in the UK are Black African.
Having lost relatives battling the virus, I wanted to bring more attention to those suffering in silence.
I remember when Caroline Baker, Head of Marking, at the THT called me and said:
“Yvette, we need you to be part of the HIV Testing Week opening day and you are going to meet someone special…. But it should remain confidential until that day.”
I was like: “Ooookayyyy…. I can keep a secret but who is that person?”
She said: “Prince Harry”
OMG! My heart almost popped out. I wanted to call my bestie and tell her about the breaking news but I couldn’t tell ANYONE as I was sworn to secrecy! I found myself shouting and jumping on my bed out of pure joy.
I managed to calm down and stay quiet and humble about it.
Most terrifying and stressful time of my life was going through the rehearsal a few hours before Prince Harry’s arrival.
The royal family press and social media representatives were all there and made sure they listened to everyone’s speech. I was a bit nervous because I knew that whatever I say in rehearsals, is never quite what I say when its lights, camera, action. My heart was pounding I thought I was going to faint.
I was asked to greet him as Prince Harry and not just Harry. In my head, all I wanted to say to him was “Hello, Harry, congratulations on your relationship with Meghan”, as I knew Harry and Meghan were not official. It was probably inappropriate at that time for me to say that. So, I forced myself to keep quiet and behave.
When Prince Harry came in, I was behind my counter waiting for him to come and greet me. As soon as he came behind my counter, we shook hands and I just said Hi nervously. I had forgotten all the instructions (he didn’t mind though). He made me less nervous by joking about my short height because I was in heels, standing on a stool but yet still short next to him.
HUMOUR! Prince Harry has got a great sense of humour. Looking back, there is a scene where we both laughed about me being scared of needles, that was the image that the world’s media broadcast around the globe. He made me feel comfortable around him and the rest of the conversation went extremely well.
I was very impressed by his knowledge and devotion to HIV stigma. He reminded me of Princess Diana, his mother, but again, it wasn’t the right time and place for me to mention my admiration for Princess Diana’s work.
I think I could have ruined the whole show if I had said the things I wanted to say.
Surprisingly, unlike many other men, Prince Harry wasn’t wearing any perfume. And NO LADIES!!!, he didn’t have a mobile phone. People often ask me if I took his phone number…. I look at them and I just laugh!
Well, I wish Harry and Meghan well and I am forever happy for the both of them.
About the writer
Born in Rwanda, Yvette Twagiramariya is a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) bilingual broadcast journalist (French & English). With a Masters degree in Media & Journalism, She has worked with Voxafrica TV as an Entertainment Presenter on her own ‘The Guide’ show & also as a leading Sales Executive managing the marketing department. Her passion for the youth has led her into educating about HIV to the new generation in the hope to eradicate the stigma.