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I should be dead, Elton John tells Aids conference

BUT, he said, people showed him compassion as he battled drug addiction and came to terms with his sexuality. The singer said he has been sober for 22 years and has a loving partner and son.

Elton said he believes people with Aids deserve the same love, compassion, respect and understanding he received.

"We have to replace the shame with love," he told the audience. "We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No one should be left behind."

He also urged the crowd to end hate, indifference, homophobia and the stigma against people with Aids and HIV.

Elton, who set up a foundation to fight the disease, said prevention, treatment, clinical research and a vaccine also are needed.

"All it takes is a bit more funding and a bit more understanding. All it takes is dialogue and the power of words to change actions."

Elton said the way to move forward was by combining talents, knowledge and technical abilities to get the message out about Aids, such as communicating through social media, but he acknowledged not knowing how to use Twitter.

"I have no idea how to tweet," he said, as the crowd laughed. "I can sing, but I can't tweet."

Elton also noted a change in attitudes toward gay marriage in the past few months.

He saluted several public figures for standing up in support of same-sex marriage, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice-President Joe Biden, President Obama and former secretary of state Colin Powell.

He added that viewpoints on same-sex relationships have especially changed in the African-American community thanks to comments by rapper Jay-Z, singer-songwriter Frank Ocean and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.