Elton John recognizes that his behavior during the 1970s and ’80s ought to have dealt him the same fate as many of his late musician friends. Somehow he escaped the era without contracting HIV, and is now sharing his story while calling for compassion for those affected by AIDS.
“Here’s a story of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality, who got mixed up in drugs and drink,” Elton John shared while speaking at the International AIDS Conference on Monday. “He took chances with unprotected sex, and he was at very high risk of contracting HIV. He hit rock bottom, his life was a mess.”
“He should have died, to be honest, and he almost did. By all rights, I shouldn’t be here. I should be dead, six feet under, in a wooden box. I should have contracted HIV in the 1980s and died in the 1990s, just like Freddie Mercury, Rock Hudson and many friends and loved ones. Every day, I wonder: how did I survive?”
Elton John, now the father of son Zachary with David Furnish, says both compassion and dialogue are key moving forward in the fight against AIDS.
“Everyone deserves compassion. Everyone deserves dignity. Everyone, everyone, everyone deserves love,” the 65-year-old said. “Why am I telling you this? Because the AIDS disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not. The AIDS epidemic is fueled by stigma, violence and indifference.”
“America has shown so much love for those living with HIV and those living in the developing world,” Elton John added. “If this country wanted to end HIV infections at home it could do so in a heartbeat. All it takes is a bit more funding and a bit more understanding. All it takes is dialogue.”