Book Review: Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS, by Elton John

Love Is the CureLove is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS
by Elton John
Little, Brown and Company
2012
243 pages

Elton John is a storyteller. Through his songs, he gives us words that touch us and move us to tears.

A lot of times, those songs are about love. And in Love is the Cure, he talks about how the world needs more of it – particularly in regard to people living with HIV/AIDS.

“But what makes AIDS so frightening, so very lethal, is that it takes advantage of more than our biological weaknesses. It takes advantage of our social weaknesses. Indeed, what is truly killing tens of thousands of people in America and millions of people around the world is not just a virulent contagion but a lack of human compassion – a lack of love – for those who are living with HIV/AIDS. 

“AIDS might as well stand for ‘Appalling Indifference to the Disenfranchised in Society.'” 

One of the points that Elton John makes in his memoir is that, in many significant ways, people with AIDS aren’t much better off today than in the mid-1980s when fear accompanied what was the beginning of a global epidemic. Sure, there have been medical triumphs with drugs that can extend patients’ lives, and research has brought about many advances, but the stigma and indifference toward people with AIDS still remain solidly in place 30 years later.

For proof, all one needs to do is look at Washington, D.C. There, more than 3% of the population is HIV-positive, making “the city’s AIDS epidemic worse than that of many nations in West Africa” (pg. 88) and with “roughly the same rate of infection as countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, and Congo.” (pg. 89) This is appalling, in the nation’s capitol.

Love is the Cure gives its reader a history of the AIDS epidemic and a reminder of those who were lost to the disease in the early days. In particular, Elton writes poignantly about his friendship with Ryan White and his family, and the impact that the teen made on him. During those years, Elton was beginning to spin out of control with addictions to cocaine and food, and it was only until after Ryan passed away that Elton was able to use his fame and connections to do something positive about the AIDS epidemic that was killing so many of his friends.

We learn about the creation of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and their business model. You’d think that a celebrity foundation with this kind of name recognition would have dozens of staff members, but that’s not the case with EJAF. Most of my career has been spent in development offices of 3-5 people (if that!) and I was surprised – to put it mildly – that Elton’s foundation has about the same.

Coming full circle, he also writes about what it will take to cure AIDS. Yes, love and compassion are surely the key. But so is government entities working together with foundations, corporations, community leaders, civic groups, and individuals. Love Is the Cure talks statistics and what needs to happen among all these organizations to rein in AIDS and end this plague – starting with creating a stronger sense of love and compassion.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking. Maybe it’s possible.

But given that AIDS has ended the lives of so many – and keeps insisting on taking even more – maybe we need to try.

“I believe in love, it’s all we got
Love has no boundaries, costs nothing to touch
War makes money, cancer sleeps
Curled up in my father and that means something to me
Churches and dictators, politics and papers
Everything crumbles sooner or later
But love, I believe in love

I believe in love, it’s all we got
Love has no boundaries, no borders to cross
Love is simple, hate breeds
Those who think difference is the child of disease
Father and son make love and guns
Families together kill someone
Without love, I believe in love

Without love I wouldn’t believe
In anything that lives and breathes
Without love I’d have no anger
I wouldn’t believe in the right to stand here
Without love I wouldn’t believe
I couldn’t believe in you
And I wouldn’t believe in me
Without love

I believe in love
I believe in love
I believe in love.”

“Believe” ~ Elton John

World AIDS Day. December 1. December 1 is World AIDS Day, with the 2013 theme of “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS Free Generation.” Visit aids.gov for ways on how to take action.

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