John, Furnish, Aslett, and Campbell at rhe Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall in Washington D.C., in 2012
Being The Change
Fast forward 25 years later, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised well over $400 million and funded programs for people living with HIV that span four continents. Though it’s not widely reported, John is “extremely proud,” says Furnish, that EJAF is the largest funder of LGBT health programs and the largest HIV funder of transgender programs in the U.S.
“He talks about this all the time,” Furnish says. “These are incredibly important distinctions for the Foundation, and they speak to our profound commitment, both personally and professionally, to ending the AIDS epidemic in the LGBT community once and for all.”
Both men believe, as John says, that the “AIDS epidemic has been and still is fueled by stigma, violence, and indifference, all of which prevent people from accessing the information, prevention methods, treatment, care, and services they need. We can see the effects of this in disproportionately higher rates of HIV among black Americans, especially black gay and bisexual men.”
John points to a New York Times article illustrating, he says, “the frightening statistic released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Unless things change, half of all black gay and bisexual men will become HIV-positive in their lifetime.”
In response, his foundation is focusing on programs in the southern United States. Executive director Scott Campbell explains, “the Deep South has the most new HIV infections per capita, tremendous pockets of extreme poverty, unproductive laws that push people away from healthcare, ongoing problems with racism and homophobia, economic inequality, and bad prison healthcare policies.”
During 2016, the foundation awarded 49 grants totaling $2.9 million to organizations located in and focused on the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico, along with at least $1 million of additional investments in a dozen national organizations for significant work focused in the South.