Elton John says that the continued stigma and discrimination against LGBT people in Africa will hamper efforts to end the Aids epidemic.
Representing his Aids Foundation, John spoke alongside his husband David Furnish to journalists at the International Aids Conference in Durban on Wednesday.
He insisted that LGBT people and other key populations must receive equal treatment in order to stop the spread of HIV. “You leave no one behind. You include them all,” he said.
“If you don’t, this campaign against Aids will be a disaster. All the groundwork, all the wonderful scientific work, all the hard work on the ground from countless people all over the world will count for nothing because if we leave these people behind the disease will spread further and further and further.”
John, together with the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), announced the recipients of new funding to address stigma and discrimination through innovative and community-led approaches.
With homosexuality still criminalised in around 36 African countries, John acknowledged that some would not heed his call to accept LGBT equality.
“I know that certain governments in Africa will not respond to someone like me telling them you should do this, you should do that. I count for nothing as far as that goes.
“What I can do is ensure that people who are LGBT – if their clinics are closed down because they are LGBT – we can give them medicine. If they are arrested, we will get them legal aid,” he said.
“With these countries sometimes, who knows, it might take 50 years, but I guarantee you it will change. People… will rise up. They will become Act Up, they will become Stonewall. They will fight for their own rights. They will become heroes.
“You might have to fight for our own life but it will be worth it. Because in the end you will win.”
John, whose foundation is funding the WeTheBrave.co.za campaign targeting men who have sex with men, earlier visited the Gateway Clinic in Umlazi with South Africa’s Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, which he described as “empowering” and an “amazing experience”.
John said that the grants totalling $10 million that had been announced would be “put to good use.”
He explained: “We are going to help all the LGBT in countries that find it very difficult to be LGBT to know that we are on their side. We will fight for them. We will fight for their rights – their human rights and their health. We will be there for them. And we will battle every step of the way.”
The theme for the 2016 Aids Conference is “Access Equity Rights Now” – a “call to action to work together and reach the people who still lack access to comprehensive treatment, prevention, care and support services”.