Sir Elton John has spoken out on the issue of HIV/AIDS, saying governments and the medical industry are not doing enough to prevent the world epidemic.
Delivering a keynote address last night at the 2009 BIO International Convention in Atlanta, US, the legendary singer said that medical advances were not enough to combat the disease.
He called on the hundreds of biosciences executives present to work to fight the stigma around HIV/AIDS and help change public policy.
Sir Elton said: “There are long standing stereotypes and prejudices that inhibit our efforts to combat AIDS.
“It continues to devastate populations in the developing world.
“But the epidemic is also worse than we thought in this very city and in this very country – the richest and most powerful on the earth.”
On his own charity, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, he said: “We are not endowed like the Ford Foundation or the Gates Foundation. We are the David of non-profits, fighting the Goliath of diseases.”
John said he launched EJAF in 1992 partly out of guilt after losing 60 friends to the disease.
“I needed to face the reality that during the 1980s I should have been on the frontlines. I should have spoken out, I should have done more. And I did not.”
The star also criticised America and other countries for not doing enough to tackle the issue.
“We are in the third decade of this epidemic,” he said, “and shockingly the American public health establishment isn’t resourced enough to fully deploy the testing, treatment and technologies that are proven to save lives.
“The answer, in short, is that collectively the world’s governments and industries are too often ignoring reality. And this creates gaps between what governments and industry are doing to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and what they should be doing.”
Citing statistics such the fact that HIV rates among middle-aged black men in Manhattan are equal those in sub-Saharan Africa, Sir Elton implored his delegates directly, saying: “All of us must confront the reality of the AIDS epidemic. You are uniquely positioned to lead the way in shaping how this disease is perceived and addressed.”