Last year, Elton John urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to protect a government program (ADAP) that provided medication to low-income HIV/AIDS patients. Then-Surgeon General Frank Farmer responded with the counter-intuitive reasoning that cutbacks were necessary because the demand for the drugs exceeded the resources available. Instead, he suggested that John come to Florida to perform a fundraising concert for ADAP.
Today on NPR, John explained how unhelpful that response was for the kind of work the Elton John AIDS Foundation does:
JOHN: [EJAF is] an AIDS organization, and whenever anybody’s funding is cut — and it’s usually cut, especially in this case in Florida, [for] the people that can afford it least … then we’re going to write a letter about it. And we wrote a letter to [Florida Gov. Rick Scott] himself. … It’s not my job to [fund a state’s AIDS program]. It’s the government’s priority to do that. I can’t do benefit concerts for Florida, for the people with AIDS in Florida. It’s their responsibility; they need to do what’s right. And cutting funding for the people that [can] least afford it is criminal.
We can solve this AIDS problem forever if the government gives the funding. If people are encouraged to come out and say they’re HIV-positive and they’re given their treatments, then obviously the people who are marginalized — like intravenous drug users, prisoners, people who are made to feel less-than — if they’re given the support of the government and they’re given the funding, then it’s going to help solve the spread of AIDS and HIV in America. We have to try and get rid of this shortsightedness when it comes to HIV and the stigma around it.
Indeed, HIV medication funding continues to be malnourished. Many states cut back last year, and Republican efforts to cut Medicaid present one of the largest threats to what funding is still available.