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Jonathan Van Ness candidly tells Elton John what gave him the courage to share his truth about living with HIV

Lily Wakefield June 26, 2020
Jonathan Van Ness HIV elton john

Elton John and Jonathan Van Ness discussed HIV/AIDS in a heartwarming Instagram video. (Elton John/ Instagram)

Jonathan Van Ness told Elton John what inspired him to share his HIV-positive status in a heartwarming Instagram video.

On June 20, Instagram launched a weekly “Advocates” series to put the spotlight on “people from around the world who are sparking positive change”.

This week’s episode featured singer and HIV/AIDS campaigner Elton John, who runs the Elton John AIDS Foundation, interviewing HIV-positive, non-binary Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness.

Asked by John what compelled him to share his diagnosis, Van Ness said: “I wanted to be able to show up in my life, and in the rooms that I find myself in, and be able to speak to my experience.

“And it’s interesting – part of why I was scared to talk about it, I didn’t want my whole career to necessarily be defined by it.

“That was what my fear was. Now, I’m like, ‘let’s define it’, because I want to help.

Jonathan Van Ness and Elton John talk activism and HIV.

Van Ness told John: “Your ability to speak so honestly and transparently to what your experience has been enables me to be honest, and it emboldens me to be courageous. You have such strength and influence.”

John responded: “I don’t think about it, I only think ahead. If I help people by being gay, if I help people with the AIDS foundation, if I help people with my music, or I help people get sober and clean, that’s the least I can do. You just have to give back all the time.

“And we’ve made great scientific strides, but we’ve just got to keep hammering on the door and getting as much publicity as we can. People are still being very generous and donating, but we need to keep that up.

“We’re trying to make people get tested. We’re trying to get people to know their status. We’re trying to help transgender people. Because there’s still a big battle to be won.”

Until the day I die, I will be fighting for people’s rights.

Elton John wanted to make clear that “if you’re not affluent, there’s so much bureaucracy that you have to go through” to get HIV treatment.

He continued: “A lot of people will get so fed up with the bureaucracy, they’ll give up.

“Listen, we’re nearly there, we can’t afford to take our pedal off the accelerator. We’ve come so far in so short a time scientifically.”

He added: “Until the day I die, I will be fighting for people’s rights. That’s the least I can do because I’ve been so lucky in my life.”

Jonathan Van Ness, sighing, said: “I just want to sit here and watch you talk for the rest of my life.”

He asked John what his hope for the future was, to which he responded: “Be more loving to each other. Be more understanding of each other. Be more accepting of people who are HIV-positive.

“Embrace them. Hold them. Love them.”

More: #singlequeers, AIDS, Elton John, Elton John Aids Foundation, HIV, Jonathan Van Ness, queer eye, stigma

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