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LGBTQ celebs unleash their inner Elton John to fight HIV

Elton John and his husband David Furnish at Cannes in 2019.
Elton John and his husband David Furnish at Cannes in 2019. Photo: Shutterstock

Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski, trans actress Michaela Jae Rodriguez, pansexual musician Jojo Siwa, and tons of other celebrities are busting out the feather boas, rhinestones, and over-the-top glasses to unleash their inner Elton John this Pride Month. The campy campaign is part of an ambitious new initiative from the Elton John AIDS Foundation to combat the ongoing global HIV epidemic.

On Monday, the “Tiny Dancer” singer and his husband David Furnish launched the foundation’s Rocket Fund with the goal of raising $125 million to fight growing rates of HIV infections in vulnerable communities.

“For years, HIV/AIDS has caused enormous pain across the world, but I pray that soon this epidemic will be a thing of the past,” John said in a statement. “More than 30 years after I launched the Elton John AIDS Foundation, my passion for reaching everyone, everywhere with education and compassionate care is still as strong as ever. The Rocket Fund will turbo-charge our mission and reach those most at risk from this terrible disease.”

Money from the fund will go towards supporting access to HIV prevention and treatment services, including providing access to HIV tests, antiretroviral therapies, and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), according to a press release. Donatella Versace, one of the Rocket Fund’s co-chairs — alongside Furnish, Tani Austin, and David Geffen — has also pledged to match donations to the fund up to $300,000 during the month of June.

“It’s very, very important that we keep talking about it because it’s a very, very bad illness — you can die from it — and not everybody has access to the treatments,” Versace told Vanity Fair.

To raise awareness of the Rocket Fund and to combat the stigma associated with both HIV and the LGBTQ+ community — stigma which, the foundation says, is one major hurdle to ending the epidemic — the foundation also launched its #InnerElton social media campaign. Supporters are encouraged to “let their inner Elton out” by posting photos of themselves dressed in their own spin on the iconic singer’s signature style along with the hashtag during Pride Month.

Alongside Porowski, Rodriguez, and Siwa, fashion model Heidi Klum, gay actors Chris Colfer, Colton Haynes, straight Will & Grace actor Erik McCormack, lesbian musician Brandi Carlile, and straight musician Smokey Robinson have already posted their “inner Elton” looks on social media, encouraging people to support the Rocket Fund.

“We want as many spokespeople as we can, because the more everyday conversations that people from all walks of life have about HIV/AIDS, we’re just gonna make more and more progress,” Furnish told Vanity Fair. “We’re going to get where we need to go faster, and more powerfully.”

As the fund’s donation page notes, “Growing levels of stigmatization, marginalization, and poverty have led to high rates of HIV and low access to healthcare.”

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that while new HIV infections in the U.S. dropped by 12% between 2017 and 2021, the U.S. is still not on track to meet its goal of reducing new infections by 90% by 2030. Meanwhile, there are still major disparities in access to testing, treatment, and preventive medication, particularly along racial and economic lines.

Both Furnish and Anne Aslett, Chief Executive Officer of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, noted the importance of addressing these disparities and connecting vulnerable people with the care and resources they need.

“To end AIDS, we must make targeted investments that can level the playing field, by tackling the inequalities and stigma that prevent people from accessing the care they desperately need,” Furnish said.

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