Madonna holds back tears in emotional World AIDS Day speech: ‘I watched so many people die’

Madonna on terrifying rush to hospital ahead of Celebration tour: 'I didn't think I'd make it'

Madonna had to hold back tears while delivering a deeply emotional speech to her audience on World AIDS Day.

The pop icon, who is currently on her highly-anticipated Celebration Tour, had a heart-to-heart with the crowd at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 1 December to make sure everyone understood the importance of World AIDS Day.

Dressed in a cowboy hat and boots and a leather jacket, the “Material Girl” singer told the audience: “Today is World AIDS Day. Do you know that? Is that important to everybody?”

The 65-year-old opened up about when she first came to New York to pursue a music career and met countless creatives and friends who were eventually affected by the disease.

Madonna at the Celebration Tour.
Madonna spoke to the Celebration Tour crowd about World AIDS Day. (Getty/Kevin Mazur)

“When I first came to New York, I was lucky enough to eventually meet and become friends with so many amazing artists,” she said.

“And then one day, people started getting sick, and nobody could understand what was happening. People were just starting to lose weight. People were dropping like flies. They were going to the hospital and nobody understood what was happening.”

You may like to watch

Madonna recalled how the media had referred to AIDS at the time as “the gay cancer” because of how it predominantly affected the gay community.“

“I don’t know if you understand this right now, but in the early ‘80s, it was not cool to be gay. It was not accepted. Did you know that?” she asked the audience.

“Can you imagine what it was like in that time when being gay was considered sinful and disgusting? When suddenly the vast majority of the gay community started dropping like flies and people were dying everywhere? When I say that they were dying everywhere, I’m not exaggerating. 

Madonna in a metallic outfit during her Celebration tour
Madonna told the crowd that she had seen so many friends die of AIDS over the years. (Getty)

“Every day I would wake up and hear a new story, a new friend, I’d be visiting someone new, I’d be sitting by their bedside watching somebody die.”

“Nobody in the medical community wanted to do anything about it because they said, ‘Well f*** it, they’re f*****s. They deserve to die.’ It was a pretty devastating, scary time.”

Madonna’s voice began to break and she teared up as she continued: “I personally lost so many friends, so many loved ones that I would have cut off my arms if I could’ve found a cure for them to live. 

“I watched so many people die, male and female, children, straight, gay, etc. In any case, it was a devastating time for me. 

“It was like a whole generation was wiped out. I watched my very best friend Martin [Burgoyne] dying. I was holding his hand. He was suffering so much he could barely breathe.”

“I don’t know if you know this but, during ‘Live to Tell’ he is the first face that appears. And there were so many others afterward.”

“I’m not saying this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to recognise how lucky you are right now to be alive.”

You can watch the full speech below

Memorial days like World AIDS Day, which has been observed by all UN member states since 1998, are key to eradicating the stigma around the disease and educating the wider public on how to test for and treat it.

To learn more about HIV and Aids research, testing and treatment, visit amFAR or the Terrence Higgins Trust