US & Canada

Sir Elton John urges US Congress to strengthen support for Aids fight

Sir Elton testifying before a US Senate hearing Image copyright Getty Images

Sir Elton John has told a US Senate panel that Aids could be eradicated in his lifetime, but only if the US government continues funding the fight against the virus.

Sir Elton spoke at a Senate hearing that is considering funding for the US's global Aids programme.

"The Aids epidemic is not over and America's continued leadership is critical," he said on Wednesday.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Patrick Leahy invited the singer to speak.

Stigma

The subject of the Senate committee's hearing was the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, also known as Pepfar.

"We cannot afford to let the window close if our efforts flag," Sir Elton told the senators, while wearing his signature pink sunglasses.

"Drug resistance will surface, transmission rates will rise and this disease which knows no boundaries will once again become a ruthless pandemic with disastrous and far-reaching consequences.

"This is the most powerful legislative body in the world and this Congress indeed has the power to end Aids."

And when asked by Sen Graham about what his worst fear was going forward, the British musician replied: "The worst fear is stigma, to be honest with you."

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Media captionSir Elton John on Aids fight: "We can end this."

He mentioned Africa as an example, saying that "draconian laws" were forcing gay men with HIV to go underground "and the disease is spread even further".

"But getting people to feel unashamed... because they may have a sexual orientation that the leader of the government may not approve of, is incredibly important," Sir Elton said.

The fight against Aids amounts to 1% of the US budget, Sir Elton told the BBC's Katty Kay.

The programme was launched by President George Bush in 2003, and has been strengthened by his successor Barack Obama.

For fiscal year 2016, $6.542bn (£4.28bn) has been requested for the programme.

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