DOWNINGTON, Pennsylvania -– The Elton John AIDS Foundation launched a three-year, $125 million campaign titled “The Rocket Fund” on June 5, 2023, to accelerate its mission in fighting HIV/AIDS around the globe.
“We are launching this campaign to remove barriers to equal access, promote justice where rights are denied and to replace neglect with compassion,” said David Furnish, chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation on the Elton John AIDS Foundation website.
What Is HIV/AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) if left untreated. It is spread through the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucus and breast milk.
Initially, the HIV infection came from chimpanzees in Central Africa as they developed the simian immunodeficiency virus. Studies show that it was transferred to humans in the late 1800s when they hunted chimpanzees for their meat and consumed their infected blood.
In 1981, HIV/AIDS reached the U.S. and spread rapidly. Between 1981 and 1992, the number of people 13 and older infected grew from 318 to 75,457. The estimated annual number of deaths between 1981 and 1995 rose from 451 to 50,628.
One of these deaths was Ryan White. As a close friend of John’s, this pushed him to create the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation
The Elton John AIDS Foundation caters to communities affected by AIDS around the world by researching, advocating and funding local organizations in hopes to end new HIV transmission by 2030. It targets those most susceptible to the contraction of HIV/AIDS: the LGBTQ+ community, young people and drug users.
Geographically, the Elton John AIDS Foundation focuses its work throughout the continent of Africa, eastern Europe, central Asia and the U.S. — the regions most affected.
The financial assistance of The Rocket Fund will only speed up the organization’s work.
Men who have sex with other men are 28 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population. This increased vulnerability is high on the organization’s radar.
Elton John AIDS Foundation partner, Alive Medical Services in Uganda, changed a young gay man’s life. Richard was living with undiagnosed HIV and was nervous to seek medical help after a poor previous interaction with the health care system. Then, a peer educator at Alive Medical Services came into his life and helped him to feel accepted for who he was. Eventually, he began to receive treatment.
“I feel I have another chance to make meaning of my life, and I’ve also encouraged my partners to test, which makes me happy,” Richard said in a Rocket Fund brochure.
Impact on Young People
1,100 people between the ages of 15 and 24 become infected with HIV on a daily basis accounting for 27.5 percent of new infections. The Rocket Fund will significantly impact this demographic.
The increased funding will allow the Elton John AIDS Foundation to continue to support a drone delivery service program in Kenya called Zipline. With Zipline, cell phone users can directly order affordable medical supplies and receive them within an hour at their exact location.
This program has the power to eliminate the shame surrounding negative HIV/AIDS stigma. Continued investment with the help of The Rocket Fund is life-changing for many.
More than 11 million people injected drugs worldwide in 2019, and 1.4 million of those people were living with HIV. However, many drug users do not utilize health services such as testing clinics and hospitals for fear of penalization from law enforcement. Destigmatizing drug use is vital for change.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation funded the Alliance for Public Health initiative which works to aid the health and well-being of Ukrainian drug users. This organization has taught over 400,000 young people important HIV health information.
The Rocket Fund will help to advance the extensive work that the Elton John AIDS Foundation has done. Ultimately, this makes eliminating new transmissions of HIV by 2030 possible.
– Taylor Barbadora