Sir Elton John calls on digital giants for action on HIV in landmark lecture
In today’s ‘Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on HIV’, Sir Elton John called for renewed global action on HIV. This afternoon’s landmark lecture is the latest in a series launched by NAT (National AIDS Trust) in memory of their late patron, Princess Diana, and was delivered in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The lecture was delivered in front of an audience of politicians, health workers, journalists, civil society leaders, celebrities and people living with HIV, at the Institut Français, in London.
Reflecting on Princess Diana’s ability to form personal connections, Sir Elton said:
“She did not distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
And, recalling her first handshake with a patient who was dying of AIDS, he gave a rallying cry for the digital, connected world to fight HIV, saying:
“At a stroke we can reach 2 billion people in a single moment on Facebook…imagine all that power to connect turned into billions of handshakes, all over the world.”
Sir Elton called on social media companies to take action on HIV and AIDS, saying:
“I am used to putting pressure on pharmaceutical companies. I am used to putting pressure on governments. We have had some success with both. The pressure now needs to be applied to the tech giants – not because I think they are bad, but because they have the capacity to do so much good.”
“The geniuses who created this industry must not hide behind its anonymity. They must use their power to help shape a new digital world…How incredible if they could start with something as pernicious, as lethal, as the stigma of AIDS.”
Sir Elton said: “The UK needs to sign up to the aims of the UNAIDS Fast Track Commitments to eradicate AIDS by 2030. Then it needs a strategy.”
Addressing the battle to prevent HIV in England he criticised cuts to sexual health services, saying:
“HIV prevention activity has been subject to savage cuts…In the two years between 2015 and 2017 there was a 28 per cent cut – and the reductions were especially sharp in services for black, Asian and ethnic minority groups and drug users.”
Sir Elton offered a stark reminder of the international impact of AIDS, saying:
“AIDS is still the second largest killer of 10-19 year olds on the planet. With a projected youth bulge in Africa over the next 15 years, this is only set to get worse unless something dramatic is done.”
Finally, Sir Elton gave a hopeful message about future progress, saying:
“For all of us in this room, and for all the people who have been engaged in the fight against AIDS over the past 30 years, thank you for your humanity. For seeing people as people. For fighting for good medicine, support, fair laws, kindness, progress. We have come a long way… and we are close. I am optimistic that we will win.”
The Lecture was launched by NAT in 1999 as a living tribute to Princess Diana (who was a patron of NAT until her tragic death in 1997). Today’s lecture was delivered in partnership with EJAF (Elton John AIDS Foundation) and was supported by Gucci. Sir Elton follows in the footsteps of Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton who delivered previous NAT lectures in Diana’s memory in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
David Furnish, Chairman of EJAF (Elton John AIDS Foundation) said: “There is still so much misunderstanding about HIV and AIDS that propels stigma and hatred. Beyond the health community, there’s also still so little understanding of how far we have come and how promising an AIDS free future really is. It was inspiring to hear Elton call for a greater sense of kindness and human connection in the fight against AIDS. I hope his words can help catalyse new initiatives, especially in the digital sphere.”
Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of NAT said: “It has been very important for those of us who have been working in the field of HIV for decades to hear Sir Elton’s reflections on the progress that has been made, both in the UK and globally. The National AIDS Trust looks forward to playing a key role in helping to promote Sir Elton’s message of making personal connections, and forging partnerships that allow us to harness new technologies for HIV prevention and treatment. And, crucially, to strengthen the fight against the sigma and the misinformation that is at the heart of almost every obstacle we face.”
Photographs of the event will shortly be available for download on this link. Please credit Harry Richards, Reportography for these.
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NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.
Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation is one of the world's leading international not-for-profit organisations working year-round to support those affected by HIV. We believe AIDS can be beaten and work alongside a range of local projects, national and international organisations, government officials, celebrity patrons and brand partners to make this a reality. In the last 25 years, via a range of fundraising initiatives and support from national and global institutions, we have raised more than £298m. For every £1 we raise, we have secured an additional £1 from other donors and partners. We use these funds to fund frontline programmes in 23 countries that help to alleviate the pain of those living with, affected by or at risk of HIV/AIDS. We measure our success by our ability to prevent HIV infection, provide treatment, end discrimination and drive social and political change. For more information on how you can get involved, please visit www.ejaf.org