LONDON • Singer Elton John and his husband David Furnish on Thursday announced grants of US$25 million (S$34.9 million) to projects combating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia - the only region where new infections are rising rapidly as rates plummet worldwide.
About 1.7 million people in the region, who form about 4 per cent of the global total of 38 million, are HIV-positive, United Nations data shows.
The grants are the first to be announced under Radian, a partnership between the Elton John Aids Foundation and pharmaceutical company Gilead, which was announced last year to address the rise of HIV in the region.
"This region has seen a dramatic 72 per cent increase in new HIV infections in the last decade when the global rate has decreased by 23 per cent," Mr Furnish, chairman of the foundation, which was founded in 1992, said in a statement.
"Considering we have the tools and treatment to prevent and treat HIV, this is shocking and we are committed to not leaving anyone behind."
Over the next five years, the initiative will work to prevent new infections and ensure quality healthcare for HIV patients in the region - most of whom are in Russia, where there is widespread homophobia and stigma about HIV/Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
This makes it hard to access vital testing and treatment to reduce levels of the virus in the blood and prevent transmission.
John, 73, has sold 300 million records and raised nearly half a billion dollars in the fight against HIV/Aids, earning him a knighthood in 1998.