We will not end AIDS without ending human rights abuses of LGBT

By Sir Elton John

Elton John
To create an AIDS-free future, it’s essential that no one gets left behind. Yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) men and women are falling through the cracks. Gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) face 19 times the HIV prevalence of the general population.

Stigma, discrimination and violence mean many LGBT people are too afraid to go to hospitals and clinics, because when they do they face discrimination. More than this, health services for LGBT people are raided by the police and LGBT organisations face severe political pressure. Just a few weeks ago, the Tanzanian government banned HIV services for MSM people including the provision of life-saving lubricants.

We need to respond to this.

That’s why the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) joined forces with the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to set up the LGBT Rapid Response Fund. It aims to support LGBT people in jeopardy, ensuring access to health services.

For World AIDS Day 2016, we are proud to celebrate its first successes. To date it has issued 24 grants in nine countries through small grants, keeping HIV clinics open and protecting the brave LGBT activists that run them.

This work is badly needed. In a short space of time, the Fund received more than 235 applications. Each request makes horribly clear just how much LGBT human rights abuses serve as a barrier to ending AIDS. Now more than ever it’s time for government leaders and philanthropists to join efforts to overcome the anti-LGBT stigma, discrimination and violence that is making the HIV epidemic worse.

The Rapid Response Fund is a unique public-private partnership that does just this. We hope to be an example of new approaches to ensuring LGBT people are healthy in the face of adversity. I am grateful to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator (PEPFAR) for their passion and their partnership in this effort. I hope you enjoy reading about the impact we can have this way.