CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta sat down with AIDS activist/singer/song writer Elton John Tuesday for an interview that aired this morning. The music legend gave a speech at the Bio International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia where he talked abut the current rise in HIV infection in the US. John explained his frustration:
"I find this disease very cyclical. Every 10 years or so, after we spend a lot of money trying to educate people -- a new generation of people -- and we tell them to have safe sex and to abstain sometimes but have safe sex, wear condoms, we find that after 10 years another whole group of people come along. And we have to start all over again, which is really, really frustrating because it takes money for education. And we find that if we could get into the schools at a grass-roots levels, which we do in places like Africa where we get to kids at a young age and we tell them about preventive measures for not getting HIV, we find the success rate is tremendous."Dr. Gupta asked the singer to comment on the relationship between new HIV medications and the rise in risky behavior:
Gupta: "Sometimes in medicine, you can actually be a victim of your own success. When the medications are pretty good, you see a resurgence of high-risk behavior. How do you affect that?"
John: "I'm a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I know that when I used to use and drink, that my mind situation was altered completely. Your caution goes out the window and you think, "Oh, well, we'll gamble, we'll have..." and luckily, I was so lucky enough to not be HIV infected.The Elton John Aids Foundation has raised over $150 million for HIV/AIDS prevention, education, research and patient care.
Once you have that drink and that drug, your mind-set goes out the window and a lot of people think, "Oh yeah, because there's medicine available now," as you say, "We're going to be OK, and we have to take now one pill a day maybe," which is incredible, because initially people had to take God knows how many pills a day, various cocktails to get them through this disease.Now, people are going back into the work force, they're becoming alive again, they live for a much longer time, which is great. But, this is incredibly toxic medicine you're taking, and it doesn't work for everybody, and you're really playing... Russian roulette with your life. And it's sad -- you think that after all this time, and all of this education that has gone down, and with all the statistics and deaths that people have seen, and the Ryan White situation going down, that people would be a little bit more careful. But we're finding they're not."
Visit the Elton John Aids Foundation website for more information about the work being done to address the pandemic.