Sir Elton John has called for more compassion to be shown to people living with HIV.

The singer was addressing the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington on Monday.

Sir Elton said: “We need to put our arms around people who are HIV-positive. If you show compassion, no one will be afraid to seek treatment.”

Urging the audience to stand up against stigma, he called for compassion and understanding of all people living with HIV or AIDS, including gay and bisexual men, sex workers and drug addicts.

Speaking about his own experiences with drug use and unsafe sex, he said: “I should be dead. Six feet under and in a wooden box. I should have contracted HIV in the 1980s and died in the 1990s.”

Calling for safe needle exchanges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world, he concluded: “Shame and stigma prevent [people] from getting help, from getting treatment, from protecting themselves in the first place.

“I felt that shame before- it almost killed me. It’s killing people all over the world right now.

“We have to stop it. We have to replace the shame with love. We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No-one should be left behind. That is how we will end the plague.”