|Elton John - Photo from Aids 2012:|
International Aids Conference Facebook page
Singer Elton John praised President Joyce Banda for showing compassion to all Malawians including gays as a step forward to effectively stopping the spread of HIV. He also strongly advised African countries to curb new infections with Men having sex with men (MSMs) by not stoning them or passing laws against homosexuality.
Elton John said this when he delivered a keynote address at the just ended 19th annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. He appealed to the public to stop marginalizing individuals with HIV and Aids.
Many attending the conference also commended President Banda for including the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts contained in sections 137A and 153 – 156 of the Penal Code as part of laws referred back to the Law Commission which would be repealed “as a matter of urgency” during her State of the Nation address in May.
The said act criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults making it illegal. Although a local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community exists in Malawi and also pays taxes and votes among other things, they came under heavy attack and risked being arrested during the previous Mutharika administration.
Traditional leaders and many from the religious community and ordinary Malawians have also expressed their hatred for local gays arguing it’s against the country's culture, traditions and religious beliefs.
But in his speech Elton John called for love and compassion when targeting all people in the fight against HIV and Aids including local gay African communities.
“Do you want to curb new infections with MSMs in Africa? You’re not going to do it by stoning gay men and passing laws against homosexuality. For Christ’s sake this is the 21st century, show compassion to all of your people like President Joyce Banda of Malawi does.
“If you show compassion, no one will be forced into the shadows, if you show compassion no one will be afraid to seek treatment. Do you want to stop the epidemic in South Africa, then show compassion by telling those living with HIV to be proud of knowing their status, that’s what the government in South Africa is doing and it’s working,” explained Elton John.
The pop star also told the audience that all people deserve love and dignity and that the Aids disease is caused by a virus but the Aids epidemic is “fueled by stigma.” He also appealed for love and support for drug users in the fight against the disease by among other things giving them clean needles instead of “locking them up and leaving them to die”.
"Shame and stigma prevent them from getting help, from getting treatment, from protecting themselves in the first place. I felt that shame before- it almost killed me. It's killing people all over the world right now. We have to stop it. We have to replace the shame with love. We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No-one should be left behind. That is how we will end the plague," John said.
The International Aids Society annual meeting in Washington was the first such event in the US since 1990, and follows a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to drop a standing US ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.