For many, June is a time of LGBT awareness, culminating, at least in the United States, with Manhattan’s Pride March the last Sunday of the month. So it’s timely that rock star–turned–AIDS activist Sir Elton John recently penned an opinion piece in The New York Times highlighting the intersection between homophobia and HIV/AIDS.

Titled “‘God Knows Us. God Loves Us.’: Life on the margins in LGBT Africa,” the article features astonishing photographs by Robin Hammond. With funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Hammond traveled to countries where homosexuality is illegal and profiled advocates who not only bared their faces for the camera but also told their stories of persecution and perseverance. It is part of Hammond’s project titled Where Love Is Illegal, which you can learn more about here.

In his essay, John writes that “for too many people around the world, those benefits [of AIDS advocacy] are still out of reach. Even in places where treatment is available, the stigma that persists around HIV—along with the shame imposed by homophobia—contributes to new infections and keeps people from seeking treatment even when they know they need it. Our work as advocates is to help end that hopeless feeling of invisibility.”

The project includes people from Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana and more.

“These images do more than tell stories of progress; they remind us of our shared humanity, of our responsibilities to one another,” John writes. “When you look at these photographs, don’t do so for merely a split second, as though you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. Take the time to see the great hope contained within them.”