Elton John, Prince Harry launch bid to ‘smash’ AIDS stigma
The 22nd International AIDS Conference is taking place in Amsterdam from July 23 to 27. Thousands of delegates, researchers, campaigners, activists and people living with the virus are attending and hope to bring the disease back into the spotlight.
Britain’s Prince Harry addresses a panel “Breaking barriers of inequity in the HIV response” during the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS2018), the largest HIV/AIDS-focused meeting in the world, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 24, 2018. (Reuters)
Singer Elton John joined forces with Britain’s Prince Harry to launch a $1.2 billion initiative on Tuesday to “break the cycle” of HIV transmission by targeting young men, among whom infections are on the rise.
On the second day of a major international AIDS conference in Amsterdam, the two lent their mega-wattage star power to calls for action to end the lingering stigma around the virus and protect generations to come.
The slogan for this year’s conference is “Breaking barriers, building bridges.”
“Young people are the only age group where HIV infections are rising, not falling,” warned rock star and veteran AIDS campaigner John as he announced the launch of the MenStar Coalition.
British musician Elton John addresses a panel “Breaking barriers of inequity in the HIV response” during the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS2018), the largest HIV/AIDS-focused meeting in the world, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 24, 2018. (Reuters)
“We have to do much, much more to bring men, especially younger men more fully into the fold,” he insisted.
“Recent data revealed that 24 to 35-year-old men continue to access HIV testing and treatment at very low, unacceptably low rates. We must find ways to change this,” he added.
The coalition brings together different partners, including the UN’s Unitaid and the US fund PEPFAR, as John warned that 24- to 35-year-old men were accessing HIV testing and treatment at “unacceptably low rates.”
Much work has been done to protect women and girls, but “we can’t solve the whole problem if we are only addressing half the situation,” John said.
“If we want to win this fight, if we want to end AIDS once and for all, we must make men part of the solution” and teach them to protect themselves, “not only their wives and girlfriends, their sisters, and daughters, but also critically their brothers and their sons.”
Some 15,000 delegates – researchers, campaigners, activists and people living with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS – have gathered for the five-day war council, amid dire warnings the AIDS epidemic could yet spiral out of control.
Visitors walk past stalls at The RAI Convention Centre in Amsterdam, on July 23, 2018, where an Aids Conference takes place. (AFP)
Organisers are warning the global epidemic in HIV/AIDS is far from over and that advances in treatment and survival are obscuring stubbornly high infections.
The UN wants the global AIDS epidemic to be over by 2030, but leaders in the global AIDS campaign warn that in certain parts of the world things are getting worse.
Despite antiretroviral drugs being more widely available, infection continues.
Experts say a new epidemic may yet take hold – in sub Saharan Africa AIDS is still the fourth leading cause of death for the young.
With a lack of publicity, funding for testing and education globally is decreasing.
TRT World’sSimon McGregor-Wood reports.
“The progress we have fought so hard for is at risk from a dangerous complacency,” Prince Harry told conference delegates.
“Too many around the world are still ignoring the damaging knock-on effects on education and other community services for not prioritising HIV prevention and treatment.”
The new initiative was focused on “the tough but essential work of truly changing mindsets,” the Duke of Sussex said.
“Inspired by the growing alarm of the rate of new HIV infections among young women, this campaign is bravely tackling the root of this problem – the lack of awareness of HIV prevention amongst hard-to-reach young men.”
He urged people to unite around the “smashing of a deadly stigma” surrounding HIV, “and calling out the prejudice that is still there.”
Members of “Chase the virus, not people!” campaign hold a banner as they attend a panel during the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS2018), the largest HIV/AIDS-focused meeting in the world, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 24, 2018. (Reuters)
South African actress Charlize Theron agreed as she addressed the day’s opening plenary session entitled, “Breaking the barriers of inequity.”
“We have come a long way as a global community from that moral panic that defined early stages of this epidemic,” she told the audience.
But she warned that “most of us now know and understand that HIV is not just about sex or sexuality … We know it is linked to the second-class status of women and girls worldwide.”
Charlize Theron speaks in Amsterdam, on July 24, 2018, on the second day of the AIDS2018 congress aimed at launching a new coalition of global AIDS funders. (AFP)