One day in 1987, Princess Diana didn't wear gloves. It remains her most important fashion statement.

In the 1980s, the television viewing public was used to waiting in anticipation to see what striking fashion ensemble Princess Diana would wear to her next outing.

But on one particular day in 1987, there was one accessory everyone was looking out for: her gloves.

In an interview with People Magazine, Diana’s brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, has given insight into a landmark gesture the Princess made when she opened the HIV/AIDS unit at London Middlesex Hospital, the first of its kind to exclusively care for people suffering from the illness.


As she was introduced to patients, the People’s Princess reached out her bare hand to greet a man suffering from AIDS. She was not wearing gloves.

Her very public act challenged a deeply ingrained stigma that HIV and AIDS could be contracted via skin-to-skin contact.

“She was not really a gloves person,” Charles said.

“She was very real and very about human contact. And what really mattered that day was to get across a very clear message that, ‘I’m going to touch this gentleman — and you can all exist in a community with people who are suffering, and we must help.”

A nurse at Middlesex Hospital told BBC that when Diana visited the opening of the unit, he remembers her as ‘warm, sophisticated, elegant and smart’.

“People were frightened, really frightened,” nurse John O’Reilly told BBC’s Witness.

“There was a lot of AIDS phobia and a lot of homophobia. The media were unkind, particularly the tabloid press… I didn’t tell anyone where I worked, I just said I was a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital.”


O’Reilly said the hospital had very few staff because they were too frightened of AIDS to work there.

“Princess Diana demonstrated that she cared because she took everybody’s hand,” he said.

“This was Diana, Princess of Wales, coming in, gloveless, and shaking our patients’ hands as well as ours. That was very moving.”

The twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death will be marked on August 31.

If you or someone you know is suffering with HIV/AIDS, seek help from a medical professional and visit Ending HIV for more information. If you need immediate assistance, call 000.