Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci was awarded for his work fighting the global HIV/AIDS crisis during a virtual ceremony hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition on Tuesday.
Elton John, who has been an advocate for preventing HIV/AIDS infections and ending the stigma surrounding them through his nonprofit, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Fauci during the ceremony on World AIDS Day and praised him for helping others.
“There are very few people on this planet who have dedicated themselves to a lifetime of service to save millions of lives like Dr. Fauci,” the singer said, according to CNN. “His unwavering commitment to public health and innovation has transformed the approach to HIV. And it is his leadership and persistence that will ultimately help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Fauci served as the National Institutes of Health’s AIDS coordinator and later became the first director of the NIH’s Office of AIDS Research, a position he held from 1988 to 1994, CNN noted.
In a video that was streamed during Tuesday’s event, Fauci recalled the early years of the epidemic. He said that he remembered not being able to provide sufficient care to his patients and seeing them die because drugs for HIV/AIDS were not yet available, according to the network.
“It’s something that just stuck with me, of how that feels when you have people that you want to save that you can’t,” he said.
Fauci also aided in the creation of President George W. Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in 2003, which helped to save many lives of people with HIV/AIDS, CNN reported.
“The impact is extraordinary and it’s the gift that keeps giving,” Fauci said on Tuesday, referring to the program. “It created a system that you can actually deliver the kind of care, prevention, and treatment in a region and in a system that most people blew off as being impossible.”
Fauci added that he remains optimistic about the potential of an AIDS-free generation, but he urged people to work to make it a reality.
“When COVID essentially becomes the rearview mirror, HIV is still going to be there,” Fauci said. “And that’s the thing that we have to do. We have to keep our eye on that and never let that — the end game of ending this is, to me, we’re going to get there, and we’re going to get there while I’m still around, I can tell you.”