Elton John welcomes expansion of opt-out testing for HIV to 46 Accident & Emergency sites across England and calls on all political leaders to do more to end AIDS in a speech at Speaker’s House

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(Adnkronos) – Elton John: "HIV is not yesterday's story. It should be a priority today." LONDON, Nov. 29, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Elton John was honoured at a reception hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS at the Speaker's House today in recognition of his enduring commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic, both personally and through the work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Earlier today, Victoria Atkins, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care outlined how the UK Government will be expanding the hugely successful NHS opt-out blood-borne virus testing programme for HIV and Hepatitis to 46 new emergency departments across England. Expansion of the programme, from the current 33 sites to every high prevalence area, could identify a significant proportion of the estimated 4,500 people living with undiagnosed HIV, prevent new transmissions and save more lives. Addressing a packed Speaker's House, Elton John welcomed the UK Government's further roll-out of opt-out testing: "My Foundation and partners did a three-year pilot (2018-2021) in the South London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This pioneering approach showed beyond a doubt that opt-out testing works in A&E. Automatic testing gets to people earlier, which means less HIV transmission, less illness, less death and by the estimate of health economists, £50 million saved for the NHS. So, to hear today from the Secretary of State that this work will be expanded to every high HIV prevalence area…46 new Accident & Emergency departments in local hospitals across England…more than doubling the number of HIV tests, is truly wonderful news."  He also shared his personal reflections on the long fight to end the AIDS epidemic and called on all political leaders to do more: "Whoever wins the next general election can help to end AIDS worldwide by 2030. Starting right here at home. In the UK, new HIV diagnoses are down 46% since their peak in 2015.[1] We can be the first country in the world to defeat this awful virus. Playing our part, fulfilling the United Nations goal and showing other nations how it's done."  "In the 1990's, I visited far too many homes where people were dying of AIDS. I remember the helpless, suffocating feeling as one after another they succumbed, not knowing if it would ever end. These memories are etched on my soul, and they taught me a lot. I saw, as millions did, images of my friend Princess Diana publicly shake the hand of a man dying of AIDS and realised a simple act of compassion is a force to be reckoned with." "My Foundation was born the year after Freddie died. Spreading love and compassion was our compass. Leaving no one behind was our practice. 31 years later, we have achieved so much. We've raised close to half a billion pounds, funding thousands of programmes around the globe. We've funded almost every HIV charity in the UK and every major place in the NHS where you can get treatment for HIV. We've reached 100 million people globally and we've saved 5 million lives. Never did I think my Foundation's work would turn into a lifelong commitment or that so many people would need our help." "I implore you not to waste your allotted time as political leaders. Take action and push things a little further than might feel comfortable. And as you do, I can promise you this: I will be there with you. Fighting for equal access and fair treatment. Giving everything I can for the rest of my life to ending HIV/AIDS. Because we must stay the course. I long to applaud a room like this, after this epidemic has gone." With 39 million people around the world living with HIV and 1.3 million people newly infected last year, Elton John also spoke about the need for the UK to do more internationally: restoring the UK's full commitment to The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, establishing new models of partnership and engagement, and protecting civil liberties. "Abandoning ending AIDS wouldn't just be a failure for the 39 million people living with the disease. We'd be failing to prepare for whatever global virus comes next, because we know that fighting AIDS is pandemic preparedness in action. So, we should be increasing our commitment to the Global Fund, not cutting it. And if the Government is serious about ending AIDS, I call on it to fully restore the UK's commitment, to pledge £1.46 billion pounds this current three-year cycle and ensure the Global Fund is fully financed." World AIDS Day will be commemorated on 1st December and despite advances in treatment, 630,000 people died of AIDS related diseases in 2022. Worldwide, HIV rates are rising faster among young people than in any other group and more than half of people living with HIV are women and girls. Over nine million people are not currently accessing treatment that could save their lives, all too often because shame and stigma is holding them back. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, welcomed guests from all the major political parties and leading HIV/AIDS organisations to the event, and stated: "It is an honour to host this reception for Elton John in recognition of his work to end HIV and AIDS. Sir Elton has been an unwavering advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS for four decades. His efforts have helped destigmatize the disease, promote education, and provide crucial support to those affected, making him a true champion in the goal to end AIDS." Florence Eshalomi MP, Co-Chair of the APPG HIV/AIDS, also welcomed the Government's announcement and praised Elton John for his ongoing work: "We are delighted that the Government today has taken concrete steps to increase and normalise HIV testing in the UK. The APPG believes that as Parliamentarians, we should play our part in addressing this epidemic and this is something we have been calling for following the successful roll-out of opt-out to extremely high prevalence areas. We also echo Elton John's comments that whilst this will have a very real and significant impact, there is still a huge amount that needs to be done to end the AIDS epidemic both here in the UK and abroad." Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, said: "The Elton John AIDS Foundation was set up by Elton at his kitchen table in Atlanta, Georgia in the 90's when all we could do for people living with AIDS was to provide food and comfort and ultimately end of life care. Thirty years on and the Foundation has raised more than $565 million for HIV/AIDS grants globally and funded more than 3,000 projects in over 90 countries. Spreading love and compassion has always been our compass; leaving no one behind our practice. We are delighted by the UK Government's announcement today to further expand opt-out testing – an approach we first piloted with our partners in London boroughs in 2018. This policy will keep people in care, save lives and is a crucial step towards meeting the goal of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030." David Furnish, Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, said: "We have come so far towards an AIDS free future and the UK Government's decision to expand opt-out testing will ensure more people get the right care and treatment they need to live full and healthy lives. If politicians on all sides commit to the actions outlined by Elton John today, we have a real chance of achieving something incredible by becoming the first country to stop new HIV transmissions." Victoria Atkins, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: "Less than three decades ago, HIV could be a death sentence. It was often – and wrongly – considered a source of shame, and diagnoses were hidden from friends, family and society. But today, thanks to effective treatments, it is possible to live a long and healthy life with HIV.   "The work of the brilliant campaigners and charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, whose efforts have helped us get where we are today rightly deserve to be celebrated. As well as promoting prevention for all, the more people we can diagnose, the more chance we have of ending new transmissions of the virus and the stigma wrongly attached to it. This programme, which improves people's health and wellbeing, saves lives and money." Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said: "The tireless work of campaigners, survivors, scientists, medical staff and others has meant that, for the first time, we can say that the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is on the horizon. We now have a world where HIV positive people can live freely and love freely, something so many people were once too scared even to dream. The incredible progress made so far, resulting in the expansion of the NHS opt-out blood-borne virus testing programme, should be widely celebrated." "Sir Elton John has been a constant voice championing this cause throughout his life. He has raised millions of pounds for frontline services and saved lives by breaking down the stigma that sees lives lost in the dark. We are forever grateful for his dedication to public service, and his life-saving work. But if we are to leave no one behind, there is much still to do. An incoming Labour government will hit the ground running, because we must meet our target of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030. That's why the Labour Party will commission an update to the HIV Action Plan as soon as we come to government." Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and United Nations Under-Secretary-General, said: "Over 40 million lives have been lost to AIDS. Even now, AIDS claims another precious life every single minute. The AIDS pandemic is not over, but it can be. Elton John has fought tirelessly for four decades to bring an end to this terrible disease and to the injustices which drive it; now it is politicians who must act and put in place the programmes and policies needed to support communities both domestically and internationally to end AIDS for all."   Images available here and b-roll available here
 For further information, images and b-roll, please contact: 
mary.pavlu@eltonjohnaidsfoundation.org; jess.ord@eltonjohnaidsfoundation.org
 About the Elton John AIDS Foundation: The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established in 1992 and is one of the leading independent AIDS organisations in the world. The Foundation's mission is simple: an end to the AIDS epidemic. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is committed to overcome the stigma, discrimination and neglect that keep us from ending AIDS. With the mobilisation of our network of generous supporters and partners, we fund local experts across four continents to challenge discrimination, prevent infections and provide treatment as well as influencing governments to end AIDS. www.eltonjohnaidsfoundation.org
 About Elton John:  Elton's career achievements to date are unsurpassed in their breadth and longevity. Elton is one of the top-selling solo artists of all time. In the UK and US charts alone he has 1 diamond, 33 platinum or multi-platinum, and 22 gold albums as well as over 85 Top 40 hits. He has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. He holds the record for the biggest-selling physical single of all time, "Candle in the Wind 1997", which sold over 33 million copies. Released in 2017 'Diamonds' the Ultimate Greatest Hits album, became Elton's 43rd UK Top 40 album and has spent over 300 consecutive weeks in the top 75 of the UK album charts, over 190 of these in the top 20. This release celebrated 50 years of his songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. It reached a UK peak position of No. 2 in July 2023, achieving 4 times platinum status in the process and is the longest charting album of Elton's career 62-deep catalogue. August 2018 saw Elton named as the most successful male solo artist in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart history, having logged 67 entries, including nine No. 1s and 29 Top 10s. 'The Lockdown Sessions', an album of collaborations recorded during the COVID-19 Pandemic, was released in October 2021 and went straight to No. 1 in the UK album Charts, becoming Elton's 8th UK No. 1 album in the process. Its lead single "Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) with Dua Lipa" became a bona fide global hit, reaching No. 1 in over 20 charts world-wide, including the UK and Australia. Its success meant that Elton became the first ever solo artist to score a UK Top 10 hit single in six consecutive decades. In America, he holds the record for longest span between Billboard top 40 hits at 50 years. He currently has logged 71 entries, including nine No. 1s and 29 Top 10s. Elton also holds the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart record with 18 No. 1s and 76 total songs. Summer of 2022 saw another global smash single, as Elton and Britney Spears released 'Hold Me Closer', a Top 5 hit in the UK and a No. 1 hit in the Australian single charts. Elton announced the 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' tour at New York's Gotham Hall in January 2018. The tour kicked off on 10th September 2018 in North America and subsequently saw Elton play 330 shows to over 6.25 million fans across the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia. The shows marked his retirement from touring after more than 50 years on the road. In 2019 it was named Billboard's Top Rock Tour and Pollstar's Major Tour Of The Year. The U.S. leg of the tour concluded with 3 sell out shows at Dodger Stadium. The concert was live streamed on Disney + in every single territory the channel broadcasts in, a global first. Elton headlined Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage in June 2023, the final UK show before the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour concludes. The Sunday night closer was widely heralded as one of the greatest performances in the festival's rich history, attracting one of the largest crowds ever witnessed at the festival. It also received the biggest ever televised audience for a Glastonbury set, reaching 7.6m overnight on BBC1. Elton has delivered more than 4,600 performances in more than 80 countries since launching his first tour in 1970. 2019 also saw the release of 'Rocketman' and global bestselling autobiography, 'ME'. An epic fantasy musical motion picture of Elton's life, 'Rocketman' has been a commercial and critical hit, taking close to $200m at the box office. It has won an Oscar, two Golden Globe Awards and a Critics' Choice Award and garnered four BAFTA nominations. The soundtrack was also nominated for a GRAMMY Award. Among the many awards and honours bestowed upon him are six GRAMMYs, including a GRAMMY Legend award, a Tony and two Oscars, a Best British Male Artist BRIT Award, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center Honor, Legend of Live Award, 13 Ivor Novello Awards and a knighthood from HM Queen Elizabeth II for "services to music and charitable services". In 1992, Elton established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which today is a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. So far, the Foundation has raised more than $565 million for HIV/AIDS grants, funding more than 3,000 projects in over 90 countries. In June 2019 President Emmanuel Macron presented Elton the Légion d'honneur, France's highest award, for his lifetime contribution to the arts and the fight against HIV/AIDS. Elton was awarded the Companion of Honour in the 2021 New Year Honours list in the UK. The highest acknowledgement in the list, Elton became one of only 64 people to hold the Honour. September 2022 saw President Biden awarding him the National Humanities Medal in recognition of his storied career and advocacy work to end AIDS. Always a tireless champion of new artists, Elton has been a leading industry voice in lobbying the government for young artists visa-free touring rights in Europe post Brexit. [1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/hiv-annual-data-tables
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