John made his remarks at “An Enduring Vision: A Benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation,” Monday night in New York.
He also broke down the numbers, stating that 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS. To rousing applause, John told the crowd that each of them is “an individual that deserves dignity.”
The evening’s festivities was hosted by Anderson Cooper.
Before the event, John and husband David Furnish walked the red carpet and spoke candidly about the foundation, new issues in fighting the disease, and his upcoming album. But the philanthropic rocker was less forthcoming on his upcoming Broadway musical.
“We have a new musical in the works,” John said but was quickly hushed before going on about the secret project.
“I can’t tell you any more than that,” he said as he broke into laughter because the project is still under wraps.
The jovial laughing continued as Furnish responded, “Good answer.”
As for the new record, John says he can’t wait to promote it.
“It’s like a throwback to the 70s, but sounding even punchier. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record – up-tempo, joyous. I’m thrilled,” he said. “T Bone Burnett and I produced (it), my band play on it. It’s called, ‘Wonderful Crazy Night,’” he said.
As for the foundation, both John and Furnish said they’re happy with all that it has accomplished, but still feel there’s more work to be done to combat the stigma of AIDS among some people and to educate young people who no longer see it as a health threat.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done, but the journey is not complete. I won’t be proud until the journey is complete,” John said.
Furnish, who is the foundation’s chairman, shared the advancements the organization has made since it began in 2001.
“We’ve come so far with treatment that actual treatment is prevention. You can reduce the load virus so low now in someone’s body that the risk of passing it on to someone else is practically zero,” Furnish said.
But he also stressed that awareness of the disease leaves much to be desired.
“What hasn’t changed is the mindset associated with knowing your status and testing and then living a positive happy life if you are HIV-positive and staying on the medications,” he said.
John said some people have become cavalier about the disease.
“It bothers me a lot because people should know by now with the amount of information out there, and the amount of medication available that you shouldn’t be — in this day and age — you shouldn’t get infected.”
He said that attitude is “less of a problem in sub-Saharan Africa than it is sometimes in educated countries. People think, ‘You know what, it’s a livable disease.’“