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Thursday, 5 November 2015

AIDS Spreads Fast Across Africa Because People Are Afraid To Say They Are Gay - Elton John

Rock star Elton John is working to use his global fame and charitable foundations to help overturn homophobic laws around the world, telling CNBC that he could petition the queen to force Commonwealth countries to revoke anti-gay legislation and that he was looking forward to meeting President Vladimir Putin after Russian leader extended the "olive branch" to him.

On Thursday John and his husband, David Furnish, will unveil a new partnership with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), with the Elton John AIDS Foundation and PEPFAR each contributing $5 million to a fund to increase access to medication for people with HIV and AIDS in countries that are prejudiced toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

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 stigmatized where they live," John told CNBC's Tania Bryer.
"It stigmatizes 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.

John said the fund would "have to tread very softly" in its initial approach, with talks with local communities, doctors and social services, as well as the authorities.
"You don't go in there and say, 'you've got to do this, you've got to do that,' because that's the wrong way to do it," he told CNBC.
"But I think that the clout that we have as an organization and that PEPFAR do, I think we can change a few minds and that is the whole purpose of this, is to change people's minds and to say listen, this is not just a humanitarian, this is a health issue you're going to have and an economic one at that."

Furnish said that, if necessary, Britain could use its influence in Commonwealth countries to "push a little bit harder" on LGBT rights.

John 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 John 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."

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