Mega-pop star Elton John on Tuesday launched an angry tirade against the governments of Russia and Eastern Europe for discriminating against gays, warning they were hampering the fight against AIDS.
“If there wasn’t this bigotry and hatred, then this disease could be eliminated far quicker than you could ever think,” John told reporters at an international AIDS conference in Amsterdam.
“Basically what it comes down to is that these countries are discriminating very badly against LGBT people,” he said, slamming governments for limiting access for gay, transgender and bi-sexual people to testing and treatment programmes.
“That just doesn’t apply to eastern Europe of course. It happens in America, it happens in Britain, but it happens in Eastern Europe a lot. It happens in the Middle East, it happens in Asia,” he told reporters.
“And it’s holding us back, and until we can get that … idea out of our heads that gay people are lesser, then I’m afraid we will still be sitting here in 20 years discussing the same thing.”
He was speaking after he joined forces with Britain’s Prince Harry to launch a $1.2 billion initiative on Tuesday to “break the cycle” of HIV transmission.
On the second day of the international AIDS conference in Amsterdam, the celebrity duo lent their mega-wattage star power to efforts to end the lingering stigma around HIV, and protect future generations against it.
The target of their initiative, dubbed the MenStar Coalition, is young men — among whom infections are on the rise.
But John, whose foundation has raised some $400 million since it was set up in 1992, called on politicians to be more humanitarian, saying they held the keys to helping end AIDS.
“This is the first disease which could be cured in my lifetime,” said the 71-year-old singer, adding the situation was “very frustrating”.
“Politicians need to step up to the plate. They can end this disease so quickly … please, please think of human beings as being equal. As being one race of people, and not dividing them up into sub-texts,” he urged.
Some 37 million people live with the HIV virus which causes AIDS today, with some 1.8 million new infections recorded last year.