Elton John Goes to the Hill to Fight AIDS

  • Share
  • Read Later
U-2's Bono, who's chummy with conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, isn't the only rock star who's schmoozing with Washington's powerful to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Elton John is now pushing the cause with the town's most powerful liberal, Sen. Edward Kennedy. Sir Elton is appearing for the first time before Congress this Thursday, testifying at Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on the need for more U.S. money in the worldwide battle against the disease. The British rocker has as many credentials on the issue as Bono; the Elton John Foundation has raised $30 million for AIDS education and prevention programs the past 10 years.

Don't expect feathered costumes or flashing sunglasses for the Rocket Man's first congressional gig. "He's going to be appropriately dressed for the occasion," says Bob Witeck, the foundation's Washington representative. "He understands he's talking on our turf with decision makers." John has considerable experience himself raising HIV/AIDS awareness among business leaders around the world. This week on Capitol Hill "he will call for everybody to step up to the plate and do more to address the issue globally," says Witeck.

The problem, indeed, is a grim one: 36 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the U.S., about 900,000 carry the disease. The health and education committee hasn't had a hearing on the epidemic since the late 1980s. Kennedy wants the U.S. government to pony up more money for treatment and training to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide. Says the senator: "Elton John gives visibility to the threat this disease poses."