The Elton John AIDS Foundation and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are today launching a $10 million partnership that will provide grants to organisations working to meet the HIV-related needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, with an initial focus on sub-Saharan Africa.
The new partnership, which will see the EJAF and PEPFAR each invest $5 million to improve access to HIV services for LGBT people and help to create non-stigmatizing environments by working with community leaders, civil society, and service providers. By providing funding to grassroots organisations and targeting projects that support LGBT people within countries with a high HIV burden, the move marks an important step toward ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The announcement was delivered at a celebration at the London residence of Matthew Barzun, the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Ambassador Barzun said: “Step by step, day by day, people are doing the hard work on the ground to pave the way for an AIDS-free generation, and we’re proud to stand with them. We need the passion of people and the power of government to come together to finally eradicate HIV.”
Elton and David Furnish spoke with CNBC about PEPFAR and gay rights.
The fund’s early focus will be on sub-Saharan Africa. There are 34 countries in Africa where it’s illegal to be homosexual, with some threatening the death penalty.
“We’re seeing an alarming growth in infections amongst these communities where we find that LGBT people are stigmatised where they live,” Elton told CNBC‘s Tania Bryer.
“It stigmatises the disease and the conditions where they live and so they don’t come out and have HIV tests. They feel nervous about going on the medication, about being labelled or branded as someone with HIV, so we really have to go in and attack the root of the problem and that is the stigmatization and the lack of safe access to treatment and advice and counselling.
“Otherwise, we won’t stop the disease in its tracks.”
David said that, if necessary, Britain could use its influence in Commonwealth countries to “push a little bit harder” on LGBT rights.
Elton added: “These laws come from … the Commonwealth. These laws can be changed very easily by the queen saying, ‘change the law.’ I haven’t approached her about that yet.”
When pressed on whether he would approach Queen Elizabeth on the matter, the performer said: “If the worst comes to the worst, one has to, yeah. These are old laws from the British Commonwealth, I mean these can be changed. And so the queen could do that with one wave of her hand.”