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Elton John Hosts Documentary on Stigma and AIDS

21 July 2014

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Today at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Voice of America premiered AIDS: Living in the Shadows, a documentary exploring how stigma interferes with AIDS treatment and prevention around the world.

Our founder Elton John’s inspirational narration guides the film, making a passionate case for the need to push back against the marginalization of those afflicted with the disease.  You can watch the documentary here.

“So much of my foundation’s work has been guided by this film’s thesis,” said Elton.  “I always insist that AIDS can be beaten, starting right now. We don’t have to wait on a scientific breakthrough or a new miracle cure. We just need people—like the six brave men and women profiled in this film—to keep spreading compassion, and resilience, and stubborn insistence that all lives are of equal worth.”

The documentary follows the stories of six people combating HIV/AIDS around the globe. Through each of their stories, it becomes clear that no matter the community, acceptance and compassion are necessary first steps to solving the AIDS crisis:

  • Activist Ifeanyi Orazulike challenges a Nigerian law threatening 10 years imprisonment for same sex couples publicly showing affection. He shows how LGBTQ stigma leaves those living with AIDS terrified to seek treatment.
  • As Washington, D.C.-based activist Christian Page-Bass will tell you, black gay and bisexual men are particularly likely to stay away from treatment due to stigmatisation—resulting in more new infections than any other group in the U.S.
  • Richard Teague is an HIV positive former drug user living in Vancouver. He takes the filmmakers through the alleys of Vancouver’s heroin district, where needle exchange programs have saved an untold number of lives.
  • Maurice, at age 20, kept his HIV-positive status secret from nearly everyone in his life. With community support to face his disease sooner, he could have used recent scientific advancements to radically improve his quality of life.
  • As a child in Haiti, Venise lost both parents to AIDS and was later diagnosed HIV+ herself. Uninformed fears led her new caretaker to beat and ostracise her. Her story forces us to consider how compassion can overpower fear.
  • The stigma towards AIDS in Cambodia led Uch Navy’s husband to commit suicide after his HIV diagnosis. After learning she too was positive, Uch turned to a local NGO and learned to view the disease through a different lens.
  • You can watch the documentary in its entirety here, followed by a panel discussion featuring six HIV experts, including the Foundation’s own Medical Advisor, James McIntyre.