Elton John has published an open letter, co-signed by The Independent’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev, urging people to get tested for HIV and for the end of the stigma and ignorance that helps the disease spread.
“As we write, 37 million people globally are living with HIV. Last year alone, 1.8 million people contracted the virus and 940,000 died of an Aids-related illness. This need not happen,” the pair said. “Today’s medicines not only enable those living with HIV to have full and fulfilling lives, but also ensure they cannot pass the virus on to others.”
What would an #AIDSfree world look like?
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) December 3, 2018
They added that cities had a responsibility to battle the stigma, make testing safe and affordable, and make efforts to connect HIV positive people with care, and noted that this year’s World AIDS Day theme was “know your status.”
“When we set up the Elton John AIDS Foundation [in 1992] we were delivering meals to people’s doors,” John said at the Grady Ponce De Leon Center in Atlanta, where both he and Lebedev got HIV tests done. “[The stigma meant] they would not go outside. We have come a long way.”
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) December 3, 2018
Atlanta is undergoing an HIV epidemic. As The Independent notes, black gay men in the city have a one in two chance of being diagnosed as HIV positive at some point in your lifetime. In 2016, the latest year with such data on record, African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses, though they comprise 12% of the U.S. population, according to the CDC.
The joint letter coincides with a call to fund projects run by his charity, the Elton John Foundation, in Atlanta, Delhi, Kiev, London, Maputo, and Nairobi.