The Elton John AIDS Foundation has awarded $330,000 in grants to five organizations that address the AIDS epidemic in the southern United States, with the help of Elizabeth Taylor's foundation, which contributed $100,00.
"Poor access to HIV testing and good healthcare, as well as pervasive inequality for people most vulnerable to the disease, continue to make the U.S. South an epicenter of today's AIDS crisis," said EJAF chairman David Furnish in a statement. "This is particularly true for LGBTQ individuals and black Americans living in the Southern states. A recent CDC report has projected that, if HIV infection rates remain unchanged, half of all black gay men will test positive for HIV at some point in their lifetime, as well as one in four Latino gay men, and one in 11 white gay men."
Furnish added, "By making these grants, both Foundations commit to relentless advocacy and investment until we see meaningful and lasting change in the course of this epidemic."
Among the projects funded are a Birmingham, Alabama, center that provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth and a Memphis, Tennessee, program that helps black gay families.
"In the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began, Elizabeth Taylor was the brightest star in Hollywood, one of the greatest celebrities in the world," said John, 68. "But she was also willing to get her hands dirty. She stood up for gay people when few others would, and she got right into the nitty-gritty of AIDS policy and fought for the cause, without a moment's hesitation or thought for her own reputation."
Taylor, who died in 2011, became a longtime advocate for AIDS patients because of her close friendship with actor Rock Hudson, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1985. She established the ETAF in 1991. John's organization was founded a year later.