Nearly 25,000 activists, medical professionals, policy makers, researchers, politicians, dignitaries, students, leaders, and HIV-positive individuals from around the world are gathered in Washington D.C. for AIDS 2012. The theme of the XIX International AIDS Conference, organized by the International AIDS Society, is “turning the tide together.”
In the first several days of the conference, a diverse and influential group of global leaders have spoken to the conference and the world. This distinguished group includes: President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, HRH Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Philanthropist Bill Gates, and many others.
However, amongst these “prominent voices” music legend and dedicated AIDS activist Sir Elton John stands out. In his keynote address to the conference, Sir Elton argues that a “sentiment” can “beat a virus.”
[box] “…No matter who you are or who you love, no matter where you live or how you live, no matter what you have or haven’t done, everyone deserves compassion. Everyone deserves dignity. Everyone, everyone, everyone deserves love.
Why am I telling you this? Because the AIDS disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not. The AIDS epidemic is fueled by stigma, by hate, by misinformation, by ignorance, by indifference…
…Cynical people will say: how could a sentiment possibly beat a virus? If you show compassion, no one will be forced into the shadows. If you show compassion, no one will be afraid to seek treatment…”[/box]
This powerful call for compassion resonates with AIDS activists and with those committed to supporting orphans and vulnerable children. Millions of children around the globe have been orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS. Like Sir Elton John, we need to encourage compassion in order to support OVC and to combat the debilitating stigma and suffering that HIV/AIDS leaves in its wake.
Thank you Sir Elton John for an inspiring and though provoking start to the AIDS 2012 Conference.
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This is an excerpt from Sir Elton John’s keynote address to the AIDS 2012 conference, which was delivered on July 23, 2012 in Washington D.C.
“…No matter who you are or who you love, no matter where you live or how you live, no matter what you have or haven’t done, everyone deserves compassion. Everyone deserves dignity. Everyone, everyone, everyone deserves love.
Why am I telling you this? Because the AIDS disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not. The AIDS epidemic is fueled by stigma, by hate, by misinformation, by ignorance, by indifference. There is so much talk now about the end of AIDS and rightly so. We can end AIDS thanks to you out there. You have made it possible because of your research and your advocacy, we have life saving treatment and we have prevention.
Cynical people will say: how could a sentiment possibly beat a virus? If you show compassion, no one will be forced into the shadows. If you show compassion, no one will be afraid to seek treatment. Do you want to stop the epidemic in South Africa? Then show compassion by telling those living with HIV to be proud of knowing their status. That’s what the South African government is beginning to do, and it’s working. We need to put our arms around people who are HIV-positive. Celebrate the actions of individual change, celebrate people who are willing to get tested – that’s the compassion that will help get everyone tested and on treatment.
Do you want to end the epidemic in America? The show compassion to those who can’t afford treatment and are waiting lists to receive it. Show compassion for HIV positive people in Washington DC, most of whom are poor and black and forgotten even though they live in the capital of the richest and most powerful nation on earth. America has shown so much love for people living with HIV in the developing world. If this country wanted to end new infections at home, it could do so in a heartbeat…
…I know I sound idealistic, but if you don’t have a vision and don’t have a plan, then you are nowhere. My vision is for people to be much more tolerant of each other in every way possible. To be much more compassionate. And then we all embrace this idea of getting rid of AIDS, of getting rid of the cost not only of human lives, but also the incredible cost of billions of dollars a year and put it to good use.
We can beat this disease, but we have to do it together. We are doing it together…let’s have an AIDS free world soon.”