Ahead of Sunday’s World AIDS Day, Sir Elton John says the HIV/AIDS epidemic could be defeated today, without a cure, if stigma and discrimination was stripped away from the virus by society.
Writing in USA today, the singer and campaigner said: “It has been 30 years since AIDS first surfaced and began decimating communities throughout America. We are now perhaps in the final stretch of the long journey toward a cure. This March, a Mississippi baby was confirmed as another person potentially cured of HIV. French researchers suggested that 14 patients appear to be functionally cured. Experts are openly debating how close we are to beating the disease.”
“Lost in this discussion, however, is a sad reality: Science has already given us the means to end this epidemic, but stigma toward those with AIDS has prevented us from doing so.”
Sir Elton added: “The reality of the HIV/AIDS epidemic today is that the people who are most at risk for infection and illness have been historically denied quality health care and continue to face systematic discrimination and disenfranchisement. In other words, they are poor people, people of colour, people who are gay, lesbian or transgender, and people who use drugs.
“The science of medical treatment has progressed significantly — and yet, our attitudes toward these communities, and our treatment of them, are preventing society from implementing measures that could essentially eradicate the epidemic.”
Sir Elton concluded: “I hope and pray that science will find a cure for AIDS very soon. But more than a new medical breakthrough, we need a breakthrough in our understanding of what really drives this epidemic, and how our lack of compassion for those suffering from HIV/AIDS is making the epidemic so much worse.”
In his annual World AIDS Day message on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Reducing undiagnosed HIV by getting people tested is essential to successfully fighting HIV. Anyone who has been at risk should test – nothing should stand in their way.”