Elton’s Mega AIDS Awareness Show

Sir Elton John’s AIDS Awareness show in Kiev is reportedly the biggest concert the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has staged.

Apart from drawing an estimated 150,000 people to the city’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (or Independence Square), the free June 16th performance was broadcast live on Ukrainian TV.

"There’s certainly never been a show that big with an international artist. George Michael is doing a football stadium next month but previously there hasn’t been anything bigger than 10,000-capacity arena shows," said Dmitry Zaretsky of Moscow’s SAV Entertainment, which helped stage the event.

President Viktor Yushchenko and former President Leonid Kuchma were two of the many politicians and dignities in the crowd.

Elena Franchuk, Kuchma’s daughter, is head of the country’s Anti-AIDS Foundation, which put on the show in conjunction with Sir Elton’s AIDS foundation.

His charity has provided £1.31 million over the last six years, which has gone toward funding 23 of Ukraine’s HIV AIDS-related projects.

The gig was a bid to raise money and increase awareness of the ex-Soviet republic’s rapidly growing epidemic.

Ukraine has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Europe, with a new case every 10 minutes, according to Anti-AIDS Foundation figures.

The event’s slogan was "Stop AIDS Before It Stops Us" and free condoms were handed out along with leaflets about HIV testing and counseling centres.

The gig wasn’t popular with everyone. Ukraine’s conservative and predominantly Orthodox Christian religious groups urged people to boycott it, citing blasphemy and accusing John of trying to promote a gay lifestyle.

Experts say the disease is becoming widespread, and within the next decade one in 50 people in Ukraine could be HIV-positive.

The next international acts SAV will bring to Russia include Evanescence, Metallica, Aerosmith and Iggy and The Stooges.