Friday, July 27, 2012
Elton Visits US Capitol Building, Synchronised Swimmers Playing Elton John at London 2012
At the London 2012 Olympics, musical selections for synchronised swimming are likely to include medleys from Cirque du Soleil shows, songs by Michael Jackson or Elton John, classical ballet themes or film soundtracks. Teams consisting of two or eight swimmers are judged on their combination of grace, artistry and athleticism (if not an ability to stay underwater for ages). Loudspeakers in the pool at the Aquatics Center allow the competitors to hear their choice of music underwater.
"I play before capacity crowds and get an awful sense of fulfillment from that but the emotion cannot compare to listening to Florence this morning," said Sir Elton John at a Congressional Global AIDS breakfast meeting he hosted at the Kennedy Caucus Room of the US Capitol Building here in partnership with UNAIDS.
The breakfast meeting Tuesday was part of the many events taking place alongside the 19th International AIDS Conference held this week in the United States capital.
Florence Ngobeni, an HIV-positive mother from Soweto, Johannesburg, shared the stage with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Sir Elton John, US Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen.
She told her personal story of HIV and AIDS. "I discovered that I was HIV-positive after the birth of my first child, Nomthunzi, who died when she was only five months old. At that time, HIV treatment was non-existent for children in South Africa, and barely even available for adults."
She was devastated by the loss of her baby. A little while later, she lost her partner too. She had to make a decision whether she was going to fight or give up. She decided to fight.
Her fight-back involved disclosing her HIV status -- something that was not easy given the stigma then associated with HIV and AIDS -- and counselling pregnant women living with HIV. In addition to being a counsellor, she spoke out on issues related to HIV and AIDS, especially access to treatment.
Florence is full of praises for the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), initiated by former US President George Bush, and the American leadership in general which brought wider availability of anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
"I am alive today because of PEPFAR. Thank you to the American people for their generosity."
She thanked Deputy President Motlanthe and the government for taking unambiguous steps to address the epidemic in South Africa and for enhancing co-ordination in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Today, Florence is married with two children, both of whom are HIV-negative. She is a strong advocate of providing ARV therapy to pregnant women living with HIV to prevent the transmission of HIV to infants.
With tears of joy streaming down her cheeks and an esteemed audience of Congressmen, Congresswomen, Senators and former Presidents of Botswana and Mozambique Quett Masire and Joachim Chissano captivated by her courage and eloquence, Florence went back to her seat -- but not without a sustained applause and a standing ovation.
As Sir Elton John said, the emotion after Florence's poignant talk could not be compared with.