Elton John urges more progress on HIV/AIDS

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Part-time gay Atlantan Elton John took to the stage again Tuesday. But this time it was to push for an aggressive push to rid the globe of HIV/AIDS.

John, a longtime supporter of HIV prevention through his Elton John AIDS Foundation, was in Atlanta to keynote the 2009 BIO International Convention, the world’s largest biotechnology gathering.

John said the world’s governments and institutions can no longer afford to ignore the realities of the disease. More is needed in education, particularly among young people; access to medical care; and controversial needle exchange programs.

During the 1980s, as the disease was gaining momentum, John said he “should have been on front lines, I should have spoken out, I should have done more, but I didn’t… . I’m ashamed.”

John’s appearance came the same day the news surfaced of the $63.9 million awarded to Georgia from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. The federal grants are for the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

In Georgia, recipients include county public health departments and community organizations such as AIDGwinnett, a Duluth-based program that provides medical care, testing, counseling, meal delivery and other services.

The grants will be used to provide outpatient health services, drug assistance, health insurance payments and support services like transportation and housing. Organizations that work with afflicted individuals say this infusion of money is much needed.

“It’s critical,” said Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta, one of the largest comprehensive AIDS service organizations in the region.

Photo: Elton John by Project Q Atlanta during a fundraising event in Atlanta for his foundation last October.

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