”Ive watched 60 close friends die,” Elton told attendees yesterday at the 2009 BIO International Convention, the worlds largest biotechnology gathering.
The singer wore rose-tinted glasses, but his feelings were hardly rosy. He stated that the worlds governments and institutions can no longer afford to ignore the realities of the disease. More is needed in education, particularly among young people; access to medical care; and controversial needle exchange programs.
During the 1980s, as the disease was gaining momentum, Elton said he ”should have been on front lines, I should have spoken out, I should have done more, but I didnt . Im ashamed.”
Through 2007, the sickness has claimed more than 580,000 lives in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The musician said there is still a stigma associated with the disease and that HIV/AIDS has slipped from the radar of many Americans.
He cited a Kaiser Family Foundation report that found the number of Americans who thought HIV/AIDS was the nations most urgent health problem dropped from 44 percent in 1995 to 17 percent in 2006 and to 6 percent today.
Elton is a longtime a supporter of HIV prevention and related causes. In 1992, he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in the United States and a year later founded a sister organisation in the United Kingdom. Combined, the foundations have raised more than $150 million to support projects in 55 nations.
”We are truly the David of non-profits fighting the Goliath of diseases,” he declared.
The audience included CEOs of companies which are developing AIDS therapies and vaccines.
Prior to his talk, Elton sat down with CNN‘s medical correspondent for a similar discussion.
A summary of this is at