British pop singer Sir Elton John, testifying before Congress Thursday, said America has an obligation to use its vast resources to stop the spread of AIDS around the world. "No nation, corporation, foundation, or individual has the money you have," John told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "No one even comes close. This is the government of the richest nation in history, and I'm here asking you for more money to stop the worst epidemic in history."
John said 8,000 people are dying of AIDS every day. "You have the power to end this epidemic," he told the senators. "Please end it. Please end it." John appeared before the panel, chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), wearing dark-tinted glasses and an uncharacteristically conservative black suit. The openly gay singer is founder and chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. He was greeted by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) with a kiss on each cheek, which he returned. "I asked Chairman Kennedy if we couldn't just get a piano in and he could sing his testimony," Clinton said.
John's appearance came as Congress considered a proposal to add $500 million to fight AIDS overseas to an emergency spending package aimed at helping pay for the war on terrorism. The spending has the backing of Sen. Jesse Helms, the conservative from North Carolina who is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kennedy said that 40 million people have HIV/AIDS, with the overwhelming majority living in poor countries. He said his committee is working on legislation to fund research and treatment and increase the participation of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health in the global battle against AIDS.