We all know that Elton John is an incredible musician and, since the 1970s, he’s been part of the soundtrack of our lives.
I was fortunate to see him in concert in Las Vegas in October 2012 for my birthday.
Elton John is a survivor (drugs, alcohol, and an eating disorder).
He’s also a great humanitarian.
That’s what I want to talk about today on “World AIDS Day”, a day started on December 1, 1988, to remember those fallen by AIDS, to encourage those living with HIV and AIDS to fight, and to raise awareness, educate the public, and prevent future infections.
We don’t hear stories about AIDS today as much as we did in the 1980s and 1990s, but “World AIDS Day” is still very important to remember.
Today, 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV and AIDS and of that number, 1.8 million are children.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Elton admitted to having unprotected sex and says he was very lucky he didn’t contract HIV, the infection that causes AIDS.
From the summer of 1981 through December 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that close to 775-thousand people were infected with AIDS in the United States alone and, of that number, about 448-thousand died.
While Elton spiraled out of control through the 1980s, it wasn’t until he met Indiana teenager Ryan White, who contracted HIV and AIDS through blood transfusions, in the mid-1980s that he realized he had to turn his life around to stay alive. He checked into rehab in the early-1990s and has been sober and clean ever since then.
While he recorded “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1986 with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder to raise awareness and money for AIDS research, Elton knew that song and the AIDS benefits he performed weren’t enough.
He formed the “Elton John AIDS Foundation” in 1992 in the United States (1993 in the United Kingdom) and has raised more than $200 million dollars to fund innovative HIV prevention and education programs and for direct care and support for those living with HIV and AIDS.
“Love Is The Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS”, Elton’s 2012 book, is an excellent read.
While it does give some eye-opening stats on HIV and AIDS, the book has a heart and it tugs at yours.
Throughout the book’s lean 219 pages, he talks of the friends he’s lost (Freddie Mercury of Queen) and two heroes that defied convention to raise awareness of AIDS — Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana.
He shares stories of politicians who have been instrumental in the fight against HIV and AIDS — Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and George W. Bush! Yes, despite his short-comings in the LGBT community, Bush made a huge contribution in the fight against AIDS during his presidency.
In “Love is the Cure”, Elton also tells stories of lesser known heroes in the fight against AIDS and ignorance and raising awareness — Elizabeth Glaser and Fumana (a South African rape victim, now HIV-positive, who uses her status and survival as a talking tool to educate others in that country to fight against the stigma of HIV).
Poor Sub-Saharan countries in Africa and the gay community aren’t the only groups that HIV and AIDS are ravaging today.
We have those places right here in the United States — the South is being hit hard and some parts of our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., are devastated with HIV and AIDS.
And, just last year, a county in southern Indiana had an outbreak of HIV cases that reached “epidemic” levels. It was reported that there were about twenty new cases each week because of drug use and needle sharing.
Yes, Indiana — while Vice-President elect Mike Pence was governor and before he was picked to be second in command in the U.S.
Also, while the HIV rates are still climbing in the younger LGBT community here in America, the heteorosexual black community is seeing the rates of infection skyrocketing.
Last year alone, 2.1 million people became HIV-positive and, sadly, only 60% of people know they are HIV-positive. That means that 40% of the people that are HIV-positive don’t even know their status and could be spreading HIV without even being aware of it!
GET TESTED! It’s painless and simpleand it could save your life!
Elton John says that the fight against AIDS can only be won when there’s no stigma associated with the disease.
Every person that is HIV-positive, regardless of where they live, how much money they have, their color, their age, their profession, or their religion, needs to be treated for the infection and the disease.
He says how that person contracted HIV and AIDS should not be a factor in getting treatment. A sex worker should be given the same compassion as someone who became HIV-positive through a blood transfusion.
Elton says eliminating that stigma with HIV and AIDS starts with love — “Love is the Cure”.
This is a book that every person needs to read — NOW!
In honor of Elton’s contributions in the fight against AIDS, for love and compassion, and for eliminating the stigma that HIV-positive people encounter, I’m sharing these two powerful songs.