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Stick to singing, Sammy Wilson tells Elton John in HIV argument

By Noel Mcadam

A DUP MP has told Sir Elton John to "stick to singing" after the superstar rebuked the party's attitude to HIV.

Sir Elton, who performed at the SSE Arena in Belfast last night, blasted DUP MLA Trevor Clarke who admitted he had been ignorant that the disease can also affect heterosexuals.

"'What planet are you living on?'" the singer asked.

But Sammy Wilson hit back yesterday: "Sir Elton does singing a lot better than he does politics.

"In terms of what Trevor said I would have thought he should have been praised, not pilloried."

East Antrim MP Mr Wilson was himself under fire this week after refusing to wear a red ribbon marking World Aids Day and insisting there are other diseases which deserve a higher profile.

Appearing on the BBC 2 Victoria Derbyshire show yesterday, Sir Elton was asked about a survey which showed that many myths about Aids and HIV still endure across the UK. "I'm not surprised," he replied.

Without naming South Antrim MLA Mr Clarke (right), Sir Elton went on: "A Northern Ireland politician said the other day he didn't know that heterosexual people could get Aids, or HIV.

"So, it's like: 'What planet are you living on?'"

But Mr Wilson (above) said: "Sir Elton would be far better sticking to what he does best - singing - rather than get involved in this. I actually like his songs and if I had a ticket to his show, I would not have minded going. But I think he comes from a pro-gay point of view and I am sure he is aware of the DUPs position on this and other issues and does not like it.

"It seems to me there is a whole pro-gay activist lobby which just pounces on anything that is said which they don't like.

"The whole point of Worlds Aids Day was to raise awareness and Trevor was saying that in the past he had not been fully aware and now he was. Why should he be so unfairly pilloried for that ?

"I think he deserves praise for admitting that. There are other diseases which celebrities like Sir Elton do not take under their wing to the same extent, and which affect many more people and in a far more devastating way.

"There are the families who are devastated when a beloved parent lost their memory. There are also the people committing suicide as a result of mental illness."

Mr Clarke also received support from the chief executive of Northern Ireland's only HIV charity, Positive Life, Jacquie Richardson.

"The dedicated support that Trevor Clarke MLA has shown behind the scenes and on the floor of the Assembly for us at Positive Life and on the issue of HIV here in Northern Ireland has been significant," she said.

"We must ensure that his comments earlier this week in the Assembly are not taken out of context and that it is known that he has been extremely helpful in getting the positive message out there - that we need more awareness of the issue, more education and a greater determination to end the stigma associated with HIV."

A DUP spokesman added yesterday: "Trevor spoke of his own experience in the past where he described himself previously as "ignorant" and praised the work of groups like Positive Life for helping him learn about the facts surrounding HIV. We can all do more to educate ourselves about HIV. It is disappointing, though, that admitting a previous lack of knowledge has been met with such a combination of mockery and fury."

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