Sir Elton John speaks at the International Aids Conference in Washington DC (AP)
Sir Elton John has said he should be dead because of his self-destructive lifestyle decades ago.
"By all rights, I shouldn't be here today," he told the International Aids Conference in Washington DC.
But, he said, people including strangers 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.
Sir Elton said he believes people with Aids deserve the same love, compassion, respect and understanding he received when he "hit rock bottom".
"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.
Sir Elton, who set up a foundation to fight the disease, said prevention, treatment, clinical research and a vaccine also are needed to end the epidemic.
"All it takes is a bit more funding and a bit more understanding," he said. "All it takes is dialogue and the power of words to change actions."
Sir Elton said the way to move forward is 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."