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16 Jun, 2007 16:51

Elton John’s concert in Kiev to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS

Elton John has held a free concert in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. It has become a part of an HIV/AIDS awareness programme in the country. Thousands turned out for the event, as Kiev doesn't usually host superstars' concerts.

Ukraine reportedly has one of the highest infection rates of HIV in Europe. The number of people with the virus may now exceed 400 000 here. And most of them are young. Unprotected sex and needle sharing are the main two transmission routes.
HIV and AIDS have become a huge problem across much of Eastern Europe, where the subject of homosexuality is still a taboo. It was decriminalised following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but prejudice still remains.
A religious group, the Union of Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine,  urged people not to go to the concert, calling it blasphemous.
Elton John's AIDS Foundation is spending some $US 5 MLN on projects in the country. The programme offers direct care and support to those living with the disease.
Elton John hopes that the gig will raise people's awareness of the growing problem and result in a change of attitude.

The free concert and free condoms were sponsored by tycoon Viktor Pinchuk and his wife, the daughter of Ukraine’s second president, Leonid Kuchma.

How much money was raised, remains a mystery. But the sum may reach up to $US 3 MLN, which is desperately needed in Ukraine to stop the relentless spread of the virus.