Entertainer and AIDS activist Elton John is hoping the HBO drama The Normal Heart will serve as a reminder to people that AIDS has still not been cured.
‘Today, we know how to protect everyone, and we have the ability to treat every single person living with HIV," he writes in a first-person column Friday for CNN.
‘Yet AIDS continues to prey upon the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, the incarcerated, sex workers, drug users, and those living in regions where intolerance and stigma are facts of life. Today, as ever, silence equals death.’
The singer applauds the work of Larry Kramer whose autobiographical play the movie is based on and director Ryan Murphy whose film stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch and Jim Parsons, among others.
Kramer was one of the founders of Gay Men’s Health Crisis which was formed to help those diagnosed with the mysterious disease. He later helped form the political organization ACT UP which used aggressive tactics to get government officials to take action before more people died.
"I hope HBO’s production of The Normal Heart will compel a new generation to act up,’ John writes. ‘There is so much work still to be done, but there’s also so much potential.’
The story is set in the early 1980s in New York City where local, state and federal government officials essentially ignored this ongoing epidemic that had killed 2,100 gay men by the end of 1983.
John points out that the characters in The Normal Heart, living as they did in the 1980s, didn’t understand what they or their friends were dying of. They didn’t have treatments to manage the disease and hardly knew how to protect themselves.
‘(It) tells a tale that many of us lived through, and many others did not survive,’ writes John. ‘It’s as relevant today as an HBO movie as when it premiered on the stage in New York City in 1985.’
He adds: ‘Back then, The New York Times refused to print the word "gay," and New York Mayor Ed Koch was agonizingly slow to respond to the unfolding epidemic. Fear was everywhere. Around the country, family members shunned infected relatives, doctors were afraid to touch AIDS patients, let alone treat them, and hospital wards filled up with young men covered in lesions, dying excruciating deaths.’
‘I’ve almost lost track of the number of funerals I went to in those years. My friends were dying all around me – I’m lucky that I somehow survived.’