John spoke at his annual Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit Monday night and honored the memory of AIDS activist Ryan White, who died 20 years ago. The teen contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and faced ostracism and discrimination. White worked to combat prejudice and ignorance associated with the disease until his death.

John and White became close friends during White’s crusade; John said White is the reason why he started his foundation, which has doled out tens of millions of dollars to AIDS-related causes.

However, the legendary singer said some things have not changed since White died in 1990.

“I’m saddened and disturbed to realize we are still dealing with the same problems,” John said.

“Ryan White was an amazing boy who had no prejudice, no bitterness,” he added. “God do we need that kind of thing in America at this moment.”

The British superstar professed his love for the United States, but said there is an increasing hostility in the country that “breaks my heart.”

Speaking before a crowd that included Hugh Jackman, Anderson Cooper, Christina Ricci and Billie Jean King, John condemned people who say “ridiculous horrible things” without thinking of the consequences of what they are saying.