Belfast Telegraph

Fight against HIV/Aids not over, warns David Furnish

The filmmaker is chairman of the Elton John Aids Foundation.

The fight against HIV is not over, David Furnish has warned (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The fight against HIV is not over, David Furnish has warned (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The fight against HIV is not over and the disease thrives when people become ignorant of the threat it poses, David Furnish has warned.

The filmmaker is chairman of the Elton John Aids Foundation (Ejaf), the organisation set up by his husband Sir Elton in 1992 to raise awareness of HIV/Aids.

Since it inception, it has raised more than 400 million US dollars, about £306 million, to combat the disease, the charity said.

Furnish, who married Sir Elton in 2014, said despite the huge strides made over the last three decades, there remains work to be done.

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David Furnish has warned the fight against HIV/Aids is not over (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Speaking at a preview event ahead of the the 27th Ejaf Academy Awards Viewing Party, Furnish told the Press Association: “What is so crucial is we have to keep the dialogue about HIV/Aids going.

“Aids is not over, we’re still seeing an alarming rise in new infections among very specific groups in our society.

“The biggest barrier that we face in fighting this disease is stigma. People still think it’s a disease you should be ashamed of, that you would die from an HIV/Aids diagnosis, that you have to take a ton of pills and it’s very complicated and it’s very, very cumbersome.

“It’s none of those things any more, it’s a disease you now live a full life with.”

There were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/Aids in 2017, according to HIV.Gov.

The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low and middle-income countries, the groups says.

Furnish said advances in treatment, including preventative measures to stop transmission and medicine which leaves the virus virtually undetectable in the blood stream, have been “huge breakthroughs”.

However, he warned not everyone was receiving the treatment and failure to spread awareness through vulnerable groups could lead to HIV diagnoses increasing.

He said: “If we don’t take the shame out of it, if they don’t have access to affordable health care, if they can’t get a test, if they can’t understand they’re at risk, if they can’t get access to treatment, then the disease stays alive in the shadows.

“And that’s where HIV thrives, it’s within the cracks and the crevices of life.

“So to have an event like this that not only raises a lot of money but also continues to give the disease profile and the stamp only the Oscars can give from an awareness standpoint, is a great, great opportunity.”

Sir Elton has held an annual Oscar party since 1992 and it regularly attracts some of the biggest names in show business.

Since it began, Ejaf’s Oscar party has raised more than 68 million US dollars, about £52 million, for the foundation, with funds going towards the fight against HIV.

Actor Eric McCormack, best known for starring in US sitcom Will & Grace, will be one of the guests at the Ejaf party.

McCormack met Furnish in school in their native Canada and the pair used to perform musicals together.

He said: “Elton’s enthusiasm and David’s dedication have never waned, they have only increased. So people like myself and my wife are more than happy to jump on the ship and help out.”

The 27th annual Ejaf Academy Awards Viewing Party will coincide with the 91st Oscars on Sunday.

PA

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