Love is all you need...

Love is the cure: on life, loss and the end of aids

Love is the Cure is singer Elton John’s experiences with AIDS victims. He writes about the struggles of his friends who have been AIDS victims to underline the importance of AIDS research, and more so, the need to wipe out the stigma attached to those suffering from AIDS.

There is the poignant ‘80s story, that of Ryan White, who lives in the small town of Kokomo in Indiana. This little boy is shunned by society because of AIDS. Elton reads about this boy at a doctor’s appointment in a magazine in New York. It is Ryan’s story that changes Elton’s life, and brings him up close with those suffering from AIDS. Even as Elton narrates the difficult life of little Ryan and his family, he discloses his own trauma.
Elton was, as he writes in the book, a cocaine addict. He also suffered from the eating disorder, bulimia.

But Ryan was not the only friend Elton lost to AIDS. “There were close friends, lovers, and people who worked for me. Many of them died in the 1980s, wiped out by a cruel and relentless plague,” he writes. He also reveals that he is deeply ashamed that he didn’t do more about AIDS back then.  “I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the ‘Me’ Decade ended in 1979...” he writes.
As far as revelations go, this is an honest book. He talks about Freddie Mercury who, till the day before he died, didn’t announce publicly that he had AIDS. But, Elton, being a close friend, knew all along. He also writes about his own heroes when it comes to campaigning for AIDS, and he has, as is now well-documented, a special place for the late Princess Diana, and actress Elizabeth Taylor, among others.

Yet for all its honesty, the book is replete with repetitions. We are told in every other chapter, how the author was going through a crisis through the ‘80s. And yet, he never writes, till much later, more elaborately about his own battle. Even as Elton charts the role of governments in helping AIDS research, he writes with regret, “If I had been a more committed advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS in the ‘80s, maybe I could have diminished, just a bit, the stigma or the suffering of some poor gay man in San Francisco or Dallas or Dublin. Maybe not. But at least I could have tried.” This regret too, is an oft-repeated thread in the book.

The book goes on in this vein, till there comes a point when the author finally checks into rehab for drug abuse and other problems.

After the personal demons have been overcome, the author takes a small first step, that of an AIDS walk. And then, there’s no looking back. The singer writes about the Elton John Aids Foundation, and the work it is doing across the world. There are interesting anecdotes about government role in fighting AIDS, and the author’s own dialogue with the powers that be.

The book closes with the story of how Elton and his partner almost come to adopt an 18-month-old boy, Lev, in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s laws prevent him from doing so. It is then that Elton John and his partner David Furnish decide to have a child. And Zachary comes along. Elton ends on a positive note, with the firm resolve to ensure Zachary’s generation doesn’t face the same trauma a certain Ryan White did.

Elton John, Hachette 2012, pp 300 Rs 695

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