Elton John: ‘I’m Lucky That I Somehow Survived’
On Sunday (May 25), HBO will premiere ‘The Normal Heart,’ a movie based on Larry Kramer’s 1985 play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. In recognition, Elton John, a longtime friend of Kramer, penned an editorial for CNN about how, despite major advances in treating the disease, the problem still exists around the globe.
“While ‘The Normal Heart’ is a product of a specific time,” he wrote. “It is not an artifact. There is still an AIDS crisis — not only in sub-Saharan Africa, but right here in America, in your state, in your community. And, just as in 1985, it is silence, fear and stigma that continue to drive the epidemic.”
John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 following the 1990 death of Ryan White, an 18-year old who became infected with the disease via a blood treatment. To date, it has raised more than $300 million for treatment and prevention of AIDS.
“Today, we know how to protect everyone,” he continued. “And we have the ability to treat every single person living with HIV. Yet AIDS continues to prey upon the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, the incarcerated, sex workers, drug users, and those living in regions where intolerance and stigma are facts of life. Today, as ever, silence equals death.”
“Silence equals death” was coined by Kramer for a campaign by ACT UP, the activist group he founded in 1987. John recalled those early days, when politicans and newspapers were slow to address the crisis due to both homophobia and a lack of knowledge about the new disease.
“Fear was everywhere,” he wrote. “Around the country, family members shunned infected relatives, doctors were afraid to touch AIDS patients, let alone treat them, and hospital wards filled up with young men covered in lesions, dying excruciating deaths. I’ve almost lost track of the number of funerals I went to in those years. My friends were dying all around me — I’m lucky that I somehow survived.”