Sir Elton John Praises PEPFAR, Urges Continued Funding

April 20, 2023 by Kate Michael
Sir Elton John Praises PEPFAR, Urges Continued Funding
Sir Elton John

WASHINGTON — Music superstar Sir Elton John testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday morning. Appearing remotely from the United Kingdom at the “PEPFAR at 20: Achieving and Sustaining Epidemic Control” hearing, he urged the committee to continue to fund President George W. Bush’s 2003 Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. 

“The PEPFAR platform has not only transformed HIV into a chronic disease for tens of millions, it has been leveraged to fight [COVID-19] and made countries far better prepared for whatever viral nightmare comes next,” Elton testified. “But we are not done yet.”

“We need to keep our foot on the accelerator,” he added. “By extending PEPFAR for another five years and fully funding it, together, we can continue the march toward ending AIDS for everyone everywhere and leave no one behind.”

First appearing before the Senate in 2003 on the topic of HIV and AIDs, John said he was “boundlessly grateful” for bipartisan cooperation that has marked PEPFAR over the last two decades. 

“There is no better symbol of American greatness than PEPFAR,” he said, crediting the program with saving some 25 million lives.

John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 and has appealed to lawmakers about funding the fight against HIV and AIDs worldwide a few times, including 2015 testimony before a Senate Appropriations Committee. In February of this year, he also joined Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to discuss PEPFAR on a visit to Johannesburg, South Africa.

John said that prior to PEPFAR’s authorization, “much of Africa was in free fall,” with more than a quarter of a million people dying of AIDS each year. Even now, he said, AIDs remains the leading cause of death among teens in Africa. 

“For young people who were not yet born during the horrors of AIDS, they need a wake-up call,” John said.

To do this would necessitate a fully funded extension of PEPFAR, he urged. 

“Compassionate American leaders [in 2003] decided that it was better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” John said. “Together, we can continue the march toward ending AIDS for everyone everywhere and leave no one behind.”

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

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