Elton has welcomed Donald Trump‘s commitment to “defeat AIDS in America” within a decade.
During his State of the Union speech to the joint houses of Congress, the president vowed to take on a problem many thought had been defeated decades ago, but which remains an epidemic for some communities. In the US today, one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, an infection rate that matches those of cities in southern Africa.
In the address, Mr Trump said the country had made remarkable progress, but he wanted to do even more.
“My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” he said. “Together, we will defeat Aids in America.”
Sir Elton, who has devoted decades to raising awareness about the issue of HIV and the treatments now available, said the president’s words were to be welcomed. The award-winning musician and songwriter established the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, to promote education and awareness, and fight stigma associated with the illness.
I applaud President Trump’s announcement of a renewed commitment to ending the Aids epidemic in the United States,” he said. ”While we have made tremendous progress in reducing new infections and reaching those who are at risk or HIV positive with lifesaving testing and treatment services, the epidemic in the US is far from over.
“While early epicenters like San Francisco and New York have seen dramatic declines in the incidence of HIV in recent years, the epidemic in the Southern United States still rages on, particularly among young black men who have sex with men.”
He added: “I saw this first hand when I visited Atlanta recently. Meeting patients and clinicians, city leaders and HIV activists at the Ponce Centre in Atlanta on the eve of World AIDS Day last year and hearing their stories was heartbreaking.”
At the end of last year, Elton and Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, spearheaded a campaign to highlight the challenges confronting those working to beat HIV and Aids, not just in the US but around the world.
As part of a campaign to raise both awareness and funds for Elton’s foundation, the two men visited Atlanta, where they spoke with people living with HIV, talked to physicians and community groups, and underwent a HIV test to show how simply the test can be performed. The campaign raised $4.2m (£3.26m), and was picked up by media around the world.
Carlos del Rio, professor of global health at Atlanta’s Emory University, which works with the Grady clinic visited by John and Lebedev, said he believed the news coverage generated by the visit was one of the factors that helped lead Mr Trump to include in his speech a commitment to end Aids in a decade.