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Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End…

Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS

by Elton John

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Well, there is no doubt that Elton John is passionate about the subject of AIDS. Although this book is classified as a memoir, it's only partially so. He does write about the many people he's lost to the disease and about his "wake-up call" after the death of Ryan White, which makes him enter rehab and deal with his personal addictions. But a large majority of the book is written as a personal plea for worldwide tolerance of all those who are fighting AIDS, whether they be homosexuals, drug abusers, prostitutes, hemophiliacs, or drug transfusion victims. Basically he's saying everyone desires to be loved and cared for.

While Elton does present a good and worthwhile message in this book, there were some aspects I didn't totally agree with. As a whole, I felt this book got bogged down with too many names and statistics, and was entirely too repetitious. I was fairly engaged during the first half, but started tuning out during the second. It could've been half its length and still gotten its message across. ( )
  indygo88 | Aug 10, 2014 |
In sobriety, I was constantly reminded of the good I could have been doing to help those with HIV/AIDS - my friends, people like them, people like me - but how little I had actually done. There were many potential acts of selflessness that I chose to forgo in exchange for another line or another drink. I had been lucky to emerge from the '80s without having contracted HIV myself. And I was even luckier to have emerged from treatment healthy, able to do something meaningful with my life. I owed a lot to many people - Ryan, Jeanne, Andrea, Hugh - but to that point, I simply had not delivered. It was time to do something about that."

When I first saw this book sitting on the shelves at the now-closed bookstore, I thought the title was "Elton John Loves The Cure." It grabbed my attention. I guess I like "The Cure;" I also like Elton John. Of course, the book is not about the band, "The Cure" but about AIDS. Specifically, it's about Elton John's Aid Foundation and how that came to be.

I remember being a high school kid when the AIDS epidemic "started." It's always a little mystifying to me now how AIDS is just a normal, but horrible, part of the medical landscape. Because back then, only a few decades ago, medical science didn't even know what this mysterious disease was. They didn't even have a name for it, let alone a cure. I certainly remember the hysteria it caused. Elton John was there too but did little to do anything about it. He was very involved in his own life and in his own addictions. When the story of Ryan White, a young hemophiliac in Indiana who contracted the disease via a blood transfusion and was ostracized in his community because of it, hit the airwaves, though, he was moved to contact Ryan and his family. It was a wake up call to get his own life together, but he ignored the call and continued on his own self-destructive path. A few years later and months after Ryan's death, John went to rehab and dealt with his addictions.

He started working in different charitable organizations that reached out to patients with AIDS. He talks about how he used to work with Project Open Hand in Atlanta, Georgia (one of his American homes). "There was something about volunteering that reminded me of the strangers I had met while in treatment. To the people we were visiting, I wasn't a celebrity. Some must have recognized me, and I do remember a few startled looks as I walked through the door with a hot meal. But to most, I was just a friendly face, coming for a brief social interaction, offering a meal and what little comfort came with it. ... In volunteering for Project Open Hand, John and I were making a small difference. But I wanted to do more. I had to do more. People were dying. People like me - gay men, addicts or those in recovery, my friends, and my friends' friends. It was an atrocity, and I wasn't going to sit idle any longer."

The seeds for the Elton John Aids Foundation were planted then and he talks about the early days of the foundation, the people involved and how it still operates on, basically, a skeleton crew. The impetus of the foundation is to funnel the funds to other organizations around the globe who are making an impact in the fight against AIDS. The biggest problem in the fight is not a lack of money or medical research, or drugs, but a lack of compassion for those in communities most affected by AIDS: "Even after all these years HIV/AIDS remains a disease of the marginalized, of the poor, of the dispossessed." Programs that could help prevent the spread of AIDS, clean needle programs for IV drug users, condom distribution, etc., are often frowned upon for "moral" reasons by conservative groups. Some countries still outlaw homosexuality making it impossible for someone to come forward and get tested, let alone treated, for the disease. Manufacturers of drugs that could allow HIV/AIDS patients to live normal, healthy lives charge such an exorbitant cost that the very people who need them can't afford them. "I'm not saying that drug companies shouldn't earn a profit. They wouldn't exist if they couldn't earn a profit. They wouldn't exist if they couldn't make money, and we very much need them to exist. The question is, does their profit on lifesaving drugs have to be so high that it prevents them from saving lives as intended?" Where's the compassion?

John backs up his "love is the cure" thesis with statistics from around the world. There are incidents of governments blocking treatment and misinforming their population. He points fingers at governments and at religious organizations who do more to make the problem worse than better with their moral judgments and propaganda. At the same time, though, he does make a great point to emphasize the good work being done by those very same organizations. Help sometimes comes from the least likely of places. John considered President George W. Bush to be incredibly homophobic, but it was that very president who started PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief). He cites some pretty incredible statistics because of PEPFAR that "... without question, saved millions of lives."

The beginning of the book is a bit autobiographical, but after he gets done confirming what a selfish jerk he was then (the word he used to describe himself is a bit harsher than my own), he goes on to not only talk about his own charitable work but a lot of really great charitable organizations around the world who are doing great work for AIDS patients. So, at the end of the day, it's a mixed bag of a lot of progress mixed with a lot of backwards thinking that's hindering that progress. Certainly not a "feel good" book and not an easy read - some of the statistics are pretty appalling. Then again, a lot of the stories about the people, famous or not, and organizations who are making great strides in their communities in the fight is also pretty uplifting.

"The Elton John AIDS Foundation has funded hundreds of projects. Each one operates a bit differently. Each does different work for different populations. But every project we fund has one thing in common: it is committed to a compassionate response and to fighting the stigma that spreads HIV/AIDS. The organizations target their work to the most marginalized populations, those who most need the services but are least likely to get them. They advocate against policies that promote discrimination. They shine a light on the taboo subjects that nobody wants to talk about but that have everything to do with this horrible disease. Most of all they treat each person in a holistic way. ... So many people with the virus are also poor and vulnerable. They often need shelter, food, mental health services, employment opportunities, and people to care for and support them. They need critical help at critical moments to ensure their disease doesn't come to define, or end, their lives. ... Whether you are the richest man alive or you have absolutely nothing, you deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion. That is the insight that inspires the work of my foundation. And that, I have come to believe, is how we will end AIDS." ( )
  avidmom | May 24, 2014 |
This was a pretty interesting book because it tied in Elton John's life into his research and knowledge of aids and also discrimination against people who have aids. I enjoyed the factual information represented. ( )
  lnmeadows | Nov 20, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316219908, Hardcover)

A deeply personal account of Elton John's life during the era of AIDS and an inspiring call to action.

In the 1980s, Elton John saw friend after friend, loved one after loved one, perish needlessly from AIDS. He befriended Ryan White, a young Indiana boy ostracized because of his HIV infection. Ryan's inspiring life and devastating death led Elton to two realizations: His own life was a mess. And he had to do something to help stop the AIDS crisis.

Since then, Elton has dedicated himself to overcoming the plague and the stigma of AIDS. The Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised and donated $275 million to date to fighting the disease worldwide. Love Is the Cure includes stories of Elton's close friendships with Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and others, and the story of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Sales of Love Is the Cure benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -0400)

Elton's personal account of his life during the AIDS epidemic, including stories of his close friendships with Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and others, and the story of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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