Elton John was honored last night (Jan. 9) in London by the U.K. Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS, which presented the artist with its Hero award. The honor acknowledged his contributions

Elton John was honored last night (Jan. 9) in London by the U.K. Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS, which presented the artist with its Hero award. The honor acknowledged his contributions to the fight against HIV and AIDS through the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF).

"I accept the Hero Award with gratitude, but more importantly in the acknowledgment of the 30,000 positive people here in the U.K. today," he said at the ceremony.

John said he'd decided to get involved in fighting the disease after the 1990 death of 18-year-old Ryan White in Indiana, who five years before had been barred from attending school. "It was a time in my life when I wasn't behaving very well," he said. "I played at his funeral and I looked like a 90-year-old man. That was when I decided to clean up my act."

The award was presented by U.K. pop singer Ronan Keating, who had just returned from Northern Thailand where he had visited AIDS-related projects supported by the EJAF. He said the trip was "the most moving experience of my life."

Interviewed afterwards by ITV News, John said he was fortunate not to have contracted the disease. "As a gay man I'm very lucky not to be infected," he said. "My concern nowadays is that young people think they are invulnerable, but they're not."

John's latest album, "Songs From the West Coast" (Rocket/Universal) is nominated in the Grammys' best pop vocal album category, while the song "I Want Love" is up for the best pop male vocal award. In October, the album debuted at No. 15 on The Billboard 200; the single peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.


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