Pop music legend Sir Elton John told Congress on Wednesday that one major factor in the spread of AIDS in Africa is the decision by some governments in Africa to punish AIDS victims because of their sexual orientation, instead of working with those victims.
"The worst fear is stigma, to be honest with you," he told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about global health issues. "We are seeing, especially in African countries, the LGBT community suffering under draconian laws. When people like that who are suffering from HIV are penalized, they go underground and the disease is spread even further."
"If Christ was alive today, and I believe in Christ, he would be appalled at the way the people are being stigmatized," he added. "We need people to be included, to feel love and to feel compassion. Without that ingredient in this whole mixture of medicine and everything else, then we face an ongoing battle."
"I really encourage governments throughout the world who are ... saying that homosexuality is a sin and everything like that, they are making the disease worse," he said.
Decades ago, John met and worked closely with AIDS victim Ryan White of Indiana, who died in 1990 and helped raise awareness about AIDS. John used his testimony before the subcommittee to thank White and his family for helping him find compassion and a desire to help others.
"You have to remember, I'm British," he said. "I've come over here in 1970, and this country gave everything to me as a professional musician, and it's given everything to me as a human being."
"It was Ryan White who pointed out to me that my life was completely disordered," he said. "I was a drug addict. I was a self-obsessed asshole, excuse me, and Ryan White and his wonderful family turned my life around."
"We are all human beings, we are all children of God, and if we throw that away, then we're throwing everything down the drain," he concluded.