Sir Elton John’s AIDSfree message: Donate now and start your year by giving the greatest gift of all... life

‘We have the knowledge and the drugs to stop this disease’

Sir Elton John
Wednesday 02 January 2019 16:35
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Thanks: Sir Elton John says thousands of readers have already helped The Independent’s appeal
Thanks: Sir Elton John says thousands of readers have already helped The Independent’s appeal

The key to ending the HIV epidemic lies in cities like London.

In an increasingly angry world, cities are beacons of openness and tolerance, places of refuge for the threatened. Tolerance and honesty are our greatest weapons as we strive to create an Aids-free world. But it is also within our cities that HIV continues to spread. Globally, 940,000 died of Aids-related illnesses last year, and another 1.8 million were infected.

We have the knowledge and the drugs to stop this disease: no more need die or be infected, and yet the epidemic grows.

Thousands of readers have already donated to The Independent and Evening Standard’s “Make the World AIDSfree” Christmas appeal. Their support will fund HIV programmes in six cities across the world: programmes that will be the difference between life with dignity or death without it for those living with HIV.

AIDSfree 12 Days of Christmas: Elton John and David Furnish deliver message for Day 12

From the bottom of my heart, I thank those who have donated already. But we still have a month to go and we need your help. If you can, please donate and start your year by saving a life.

In The Independent over the past few weeks, we have read extraordinary, inspiring stories of those living with HIV.

These are people like Andrew Williams, who I met in Atlanta, Georgia: a wonderful man whose story I will never forget.

Today, if you are on medication, you have no risk of infecting others, can have children, can live a full, fulfilling life 

Sir Elton John

Two years ago, he was diagnosed with HIV. Like many others, he believed his diagnosis was a death sentence. Today he is a changed man: healthy and happy.

Within months of treatment, his HIV was suppressed, undetectable in his blood and unable to be passed to others. His life was saved and he found a higher purpose for it: to show others like him there is a full life to be lived after diagnosis.

Andrew’s story shows how far we have come.

When I first joined the fight against Aids, we understood very little about a disease that was taking so many of those we loved. Today, if you are on medication, you have no risk of infecting others, can have children, can live a full, fulfilling life.

Sadly, Andrew’s is not the only story. In the weeks before we met at a treatment centre in Atlanta, three others we were trying to help there died.

They reached us too late. Their memory reminds us of what we still must do. Too much stigma surrounds HIV, too much fear, too much misunderstanding, too many suffer in silence and do not seek help until too late.

At the end of this month, we will hold our AIDSfree forum here in London, hosted by the secretaries of state for health and international development, and bringing together leaders, doctors, NGOs and activists from across our AIDSfree cities.

This is our chance to influence how each of these cities will turn the tide and end this epidemic.

With your support, we can show them that the people of London are already doing so.

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