When Elton John established the Foundation after losing friends to AIDS in the 80s and early 90s, he saw the stigma and lack of understanding attached to the disease and felt compelled to take action. This era was chronicled in “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s 1985 play about the AIDS epidemic in New York City. The TV movie adaptation of Kramer’s play premiered last week, following one activist’s battle to raise awareness, organise for research and expose the truth about the AIDS crisis.
To mark the film’s premiere, Elton contributed a commentary to CNN on how far we’ve come since that era, and how far we still have to go on the road to an AIDS free future.
"Back then, The New York Times refused to print the word "gay," and New York Mayor Ed Koch was agonizingly slow to respond to the unfolding epidemic. Fear was everywhere. Around the country, family members shunned infected relatives, doctors were afraid to touch AIDS patients, let alone treat them, and hospital wards filled up with young men covered in lesions, dying excruciating deaths. I've almost lost track of the number of funerals I went to in those years. My friends were dying all around me -- I'm lucky that I somehow survived."
"Today, we know how to protect everyone, and we have the ability to treat every single person living with HIV. Yet AIDS continues to prey upon the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, the incarcerated, sex workers, drug users, and those living in regions where intolerance and stigma are facts of life. Today, as ever, silence equals death."
Read the full article on CNN.com.
Like Elton, we believe that everyone is entitled to dignity. We believe that everyone has the right to access the best medicine. And most importantly, we believe that compassion for everyone – particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised – is central to any caring community. Learn more about how you can support our work towards an AIDS free future for everyone.