17 January 2012
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

China Central Television (CCTV) interview with Sir Elton John

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador James Chau joined us for last year’s World AIDS Day. James is also news anchor at China Central Television (CCTV) and made sure that the World AIDS Day celebrations in Sydney were widely covered in the Chinese media. His interview with Sir Elton John has been widely broadcasted in China, reaching some 200 million viewers.

Of course, we all know that Elton John is immensely popular all around the world, but he is one of the few entertainers from the ‘West’ who is truly well-known amongst all generations in China. James Chau spoke with Elton John about his pioneering action on AIDS and his Foundation. Below the interview and a longer version of the interview that was aired as a holiday special on the 30th of December 2011.

5 December 2011
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

President Obama’s Speech on World AIDS Day

Hello, everyone! Thank you, Sanjay. It’s an honor to be with you all today and to follow President Kikwete and President Bush. To Bono, to Alicia, to the ONE campaign, thank you for bringing us together. Because of your work, all across Africa, there are children who are no longer starving; mothers who are no longer dying of treatable diseases; and fathers who are again providing for their families. Because of you, so many people are now blessed with hope.

We’ve got Members of Congress here who have done so much for this cause. Thank you.

Let me also thank President Bush for joining us from Tanzania and for his bold leadership on this issue. History will record the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as an extraordinary legacy. That program – more ambitious than even leading advocates thought was possible at the time – has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions. And we are proud to carry that work forward.

Today is a remarkable day. Today, we come together, as a global community, across continents, faiths and cultures, to renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic – once and for all.

Now, if you go back and look at the themes of past World AIDS Days, if you read them one after another, you’ll see the story of how the human race has confronted one of the most devastating pandemics in our history. You’ll see that in those early years – when we started losing good men and women to a disease that no one truly understood – it was about ringing the alarm; calling for global action; proving that this deadly disease was not isolated to one area or one people.

And that’s part of what makes today so remarkable; because back in those early years, few could have imagined this day; that we would be looking ahead to ‘The Beginning of the End;’ marking a World AIDS Day that has as its theme, ‘Getting to Zero.’ Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. But we are. And we arrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can – and will – beat this disease.

Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died from AIDS – some of you here today – are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And, because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections, and deaths, is declining.

So make no mistake, we are winning this fight. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot.

The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it’s not going down in America. The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly fifty percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups; when black women feel forgotten even though they account for most of the new cases among women, we need to do more.

This fight isn’t over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight isn’t over for them. It isn’t over for their families. It isn’t over for anyone in this room. And it isn’t over for your President.

Since I took office, we’ve had a robust national dialogue on HIV/AIDS. Members of my Administration have fanned out across the country to meet people living with HIV, to meet researchers, faith leaders, medical providers, and private sector partners. We’ve spoken with over 4,000 folks. And out of all those conversations we drafted a new plan to combat this disease.

Last year, we released that plan – our first ever comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy. We went back to basics – prevention, treatment, and focusing our efforts where the need is greatest. And we laid out a vision where every American, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status can get access to life-extending care.

Now, I want to be clear about something else – since taking office, we’ve increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels. With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act. And, as I signed that bill, I was so proud to also announce that my Administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America. Because of that step, next year, for the first time in two decades, we will host the International AIDS conference. So we’ve done a lot over the past three years. But we can do more.

Today, I’m announcing some new commitments. We’re committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country. Let’s keep their doors open so they can keep saving lives. And we’re committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Now, the federal government can’t do this alone. So I’m also calling on state governments, pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations, to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.

Because here’s the thing: this is a global fight, one that America must continue to lead. Look back at the history of HIV/AIDS and you’ll see that no other country has done more than us. That’s testament to our leadership as a country. Look back and you’ll see that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have consistently come together to fund this fight. Not just here, but around the world. That’s testament to the values that we share as Americans; a commitment that extends across party lines and that is demonstrated by President Bush and I joining you all today.

Since I took office, we’ve increased support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We’ve launched a Global Health Initiative that has improved access to health care, helped bring down the costs of vaccines and, over the next five years, will help save the lives of four million more children. And, all along, we’ve kept focusing on expanding our impact.

Today I am proud to announce that as of September, the United States now supports anti-retroviral treatment for nearly four million people worldwide. In just the past year, we’ve provided six hundred thousand HIV-positive mothers with access to drugs so that two hundred thousand babies could be born HIV-free. And nearly thirteen million people have received care and treatment, including more than four million children. So that’s something to be proud of.

And we’re achieving these results not by acting alone, but by partnering with developing countries like Tanzania, and with leaders like President Kikwete.

Now, as we go forward, we need to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention. That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works, from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior. And that’s why we’re setting a goal of providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than one and a half million HIV-positive pregnant woman over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies. But we’re not stopping there. We know that treatment is also prevention. And today we’re setting a new target of helping six million people get on treatment by the end of 2013. That’s two million more people than our original goal.

So on this World AIDS Day, here’s my message to everyone out there.

To the global community – join us. Countries that have committed to the Global Fund need to give the money they promised. And countries that haven’t made a pledge need to do so. That includes China and other major economies that are now able to step up as major donors.

To Congress – keep working together and keep the commitments you’ve made intact. At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and presidencies. It has shown that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics. Let’s carry that spirit forward.

And to all Americans – keep fighting. Fight for every person who needs our help today but also fight for every person who didn’t live to see this moment. Fight for Rock Hudson, Arthur Ashe, and every person who woke us up to the reality of HIV/AIDS. Fight for Ryan White, his mother Jeanne, the Ray brothers, and every person who forced us to confront our destructive prejudices and misguided fears. Fight for Magic Johnson, Mary Fisher and every man, woman and child, who, when told they were going to die from this disease, said, “No, I’m going to live.”

Keep fighting for all of them because we can end this pandemic. We can beat this disease. We can win this fight. We just have to keep at it, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero. And as long as I have the honor of being your President, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. That’s my pledge – my commitment – to you. And that has to be our promise to each other; because we have come so far; we have saved so many lives; let’s finish the fight.

Thank you for all that you’ve done. God bless you. And God bless America.

2 December 2011
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

Sir Elton John marks World AIDS Day in Sydney

On 1 December 2011 Pacific Friends of the Global Fund organised a World AIDS Day reception to raise awareness for the ongoing fight against HIV and AIDS. For this occasion Sir Elton John was invited to officially light the Sydney Opera House red, and was accompanied by the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and the Hon. Jillian Skinner MP, NSW Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research.

Sir Elton John
World AIDS Day 2011 address
Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney, Australia
1 December 2011

Thank you.

It’s a real privilege to be here tonight. It’s a coincidence that I’m in Australia, and a good coincidence. I’ve been coming here for long times and I think this is my 15th visit, I remember two years ago seeing Bono here and U2 lighting up the Opera House for the RED foundation and I applauding from afar.

Bono is a good friend of mine, and what we have seen happening in the field of AIDS is that the people who have survived, the organisations survived, we have been working together. And we have to work together, it’s not about ego, it’s not about anything, it’s about working together. Getting the best funding out there possible, getting the best treatment, getting the best templates of organisations like mothers-to-mothers. I applaud his work and also a couple of other entertainers that have thrown their hat into the ring: Annie Lennox, who has been incredibly active in the last two-three years, and to Alicia Keys in America.

Why are we here? Well thirty years ago AIDS happened, and we have made amazing advances in the treatment of AIDS. Two weeks ago my friend Freddie Mercury – twenty years ago two weeks ago – Freddie Mercury died. And I saw him struggle with what was the most appalling Kaposi’s and painful and hideous things to look at. Two years on he would have been still alive, that’s the cruelty of this disease. We’ve lost so many people so quickly, and then we developed drugs that kept people alive.

When I started my Foundation in America, which would be twenty years ago – twenty years next year – we were delivering meals; it was direct care. We were delivering meals, buddy systems, medicine, whatever. Of course the landscape has changed so incredibly. With the advent of new medicines, people who had no hope, now have complete hope. The amazing thing with these new medicine, the anti-retrovirals: you have a 96 percent chance of not passing on the infection to your partner or to [another] person, if you are on anti-retrovirals. That is an amazing statistic. It is not a cure, but it is almost a cure. It’s an amazing statistic that, especially in South Africa where you see the mothers who are determined not to pass AIDS on to the next generation. And the young people, the teenagers, [who] are determined to live in an AIDS free generation.

I was in Kiev recently talking to girls who are mothers and pregnant, who are on the street, homeless. And they are not bitter about their situation, they just don’t want to pass HIV on to their children. They want an AIDS free generation, and of course that’s what we want too. Someone mentioned 2015 and zero infection by then, I don’t think that’s impossible to achieve. But what we have to do, is, we got this disease really by the scruff of the neck but we cannot loosen that grip that we have on it. If governments start backing out and stop funding then the epidemic will start to balloon again, because AIDS is a baffling disease, it’s very cunning, it reinvents itself. What we’ve got to do, starting tomorrow in America with President Obama, hopefully, is to fight a new war on AIDS. To fight a new war, to get the funding necessary, to actually kill this disease once and for all. It’s incredibly important, but we need to do that, we can’t let go now. It’s imperative that we seize this opportunity where the end is may be in sight, to keep going. And I know that all of us in this room want nothing more than for us not to be here anymore. Okay, we don’t need to be here to light the Opera House on World AIDS Day. It would be great if there’s no World AIDS Day; that’s not going to happen for a while but it’s possible that it’s not going to happen. We have never been able to say this before. BUT, we need the confirmation and the backing of the global governments to say once and for all, the Chinese, the Asians, the Indians, the Africans, the Europeans, the South Americans, the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians and so forth, let’s get rid of this disease when we have the chance to. And we do have the chance, we just have to come together now and do this final push.

The thing that dismays me about the AIDS epidemic is that thirty years ago it was the most stigmatised diseases you could possibly find in the world. It was a faggot’s disease “oh let them die…”, you know. That’s what the Reagan administration did in America , it’s that they couldn’t care less about it till a young boy called Ryan White became infected with AIDS because he was haemophiliac and he got it from a blood transfusion. That’s when I became interested. I was in a drug-induced haze. I was losing friends right, left and centre. But I did nothing. I did not act with Larry Kramer. I did not march with him for ACT UP. I was a self obsessed drug addict who – until I got to grips with myself and got involved with Ryan White’s life and the situation he was in – really did nothing. I was ashamed of that and that’s why I started the [Elton John] AIDS Foundation to say “listen I’ve been given another chance, I was HIV negative”. This is a message from someone to say get your ass into gear and do something positive, when you wasted all those year taking cocaine, drinking, just thinking and talking gibberish, and thinking you were doing something when you weren’t.

The stigma thirty years ago was terrible. And thirty years on the biggest problem I think we face is not the funding of getting medicines to people, that will happen, it’s the stigma still around this disease. People are still ashamed to have HIV and AIDS, they‘re still reluctant to get tested, they’re still scared of this disease. This disease is a treatable disease now, there’s no stigma around it. You are HIV positive; you can live a long life. But the shame and the stigma is there every day, especially in the United States of America. From the right wing fundamentalists saying “this is disgraceful, blah blah blah…” More people are going underground, and this is thirty years on when we made so much medical advancement in the treatment of AIDS. The only cure for this is love and understanding, it’s about talking together. It’s about like here [where] we have two people on opposite side of the bench in the Australian parliament talking together and doing something constructive. That’s not happening in America, it’s not happening at all. The right won’t talk to the left, and left won’t talk to the right or they try to and the right just washes the floor with them. This has got to stop, we have to have dialogue about AIDS, we have to get rid of the stigma, we have to have love and compassion.

When Ryan White died, during his life he never complained about what he had and only wanted to inform people about AIDS. You know, he was expelled from school, they tried to torch his home, he wasn’t bitter, his family wasn’t bitter they had an incredibly – inverted commas – “Christian” attitude. They wanted compassion, they wanted to forgive people, they wanted to get rid of the ignorance associated with the disease. If we can do this, if we can de-stigmatise this disease for once and for all, we are really going to beat this disease. But it’s a shame that this is happening, I don’t know if it’s happening in Australia because I don’t have any facts and figures to back me up, but I know this is happening in Britain, know that it’s happening in Europe and I know it’s happening in America. So-called intellectual countries that know all about AIDS and have all the information, it’s still been driven underground in some situations. Which is tragic, and it’s wrong, it’s ignorant and it’s disgusting. People with HIV need to feel proud of themselves, they don’t need to feel this [discrimination] I know that if you get HIV you think “oh god I made a fool of myself, I had unsafe sex blah blah blah…” But, you know, we’re all human. It’s inhumane rather to treat people like this, to drive them underground, to make them feel ostracized like lepers. Thirty years on this is still happening. My main beef is about this: if we treat people with love, respect and compassion, which is kind of lacking on a worldwide basis right now, and I know it sounds corny, but it’s the only way that we’re going to get this stigmatised situation out of the way. We need love, we need understanding, we need compassion, and we need it now. And we need leadership on this, we need it from governments, we need it from schoolteachers, we need it from politicians all over the world. Let’s de-stigmatise this disease.


It’s not a gay disease anymore, the leading killer of women in childbirth aged from 18 to 40 in the world is not cancer, is not heart disease, is AIDS! So let’s stop pussyfooting around with this, it’s the leading killer of women who can give birth to children. So this is not a “faggots-fucking-disease” anymore, this is a worldwide disease that affects everybody. Get over it!


Having ranted about that…. slightly. No I mean, as you get older – and boy I’m getting older – you just see that you need more love and compassion and understanding. And I’ve learnt from twenty years of work in this field of HIV funding and trying to raise money that this is the issue that keeps coming up time and time again. We see the results in Africa where we can get to people who are 9 and 10 years of age and talk to them sensibly about AIDs. We see the women empowered by the situation and taking the situation by the scruff of the neck, and not wanting the pass this disease on to the next generation. There’s so much hope. I go around and I visit situations and projects that we fund and you come away and you think “god the human spirit is so incredible” It’s so brave, these poor kids on the streets in Kiev – two hundred thousand – and the girls that are pregnant. They are not moaning about their situation. They live without heat, without sanitation, without access to health and all they want to do is have their kids not live with AIDS. They’re selfless, and we need to be selfless.

We need to, as I said, grab this disease right now, tackle the situations that we’re in, get more funding, more people on the anti-retroviral treatment and get rid of the stigma. And we will be making so much more progress than we are now, and boy we made some progress but haven’t made enough. So let’s make more progress and get rid of this disgusting stigma and these people who are such fascists, and such idiots, and such assholes, to understand that people have a right to live with dignity, we’re all treated equal. And it’s about time Australians got the same-sex marriage as well. Thank you.

World wide media coverage:

1 December 2011
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador James Chau

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador James Chau spoke yesterday morning with ABC News Australia about World AIDS Day and the fight against HIV and AIDS.

30 November 2011
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom

Sydney Opera House is RED

Tonight Pacific Friends of the Global Fund turned the Opera House in Sydney red to mark World AIDS Day 2011.

More photos on Flickr

Pacific Friends operates as a program within the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

Pacific Friends

Professor Janice Reid AC
Bill Bowtell AO
Executive Director

Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.



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