DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — British musician Elton John on Wednesday committed money for protecting LGBT people in Africa, saying that leaving them behind in the fight against AIDS will only increase the spread of the disease.
The rock star spoke at a global AIDS conference in South Africa that has also attracted philanthropist Bill Gates, actress Charlize Theron and Britain's Prince Harry.
Africa is the continent hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic, but the subject of homosexuality is taboo in many countries. Some African nations criminalize same-sex conduct, including Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
John said he wants to ensure that LGBT people are protected if they are denied medical treatment or arrested, and his Elton John AIDS Foundation announced its first recipients Wednesday with that goal in mind.
"With these countries sometimes, it may take 50 years. But I guarantee it will change," the musician said. "If people feel included, they will rise up. ... They will become heroes."
Gates, meanwhile, warned that Africa is "chronically underprepared" for a looming demographic bulge in young people, who are most at risk for HIV.
The largest generation in history is entering the age where they are most at risk of HIV, Gates said.