Musician Elton John holds up the 2017 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Award after being presented with the award Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, during ceremonies at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. Elton John was recognized during the ceremonies for his work in combating HIV/AIDS around the world. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

CAMBRIDGE — Sir Elton John has been honored at Harvard University for his philanthropic efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.

The 70-year-old singer was awarded the Harvard Foundation's Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award in a ceremony Monday. Previous winners include former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Secretaries General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Javier Perez de Cuellar.

The 70-year-old music legend has credited his successful career for opening up "imaginable doors", but has admitted when he "hit the pinnacle" his life started to go on a downward spiral and he soon became a "monster" because of his substance abuse. 

John says he lost friends to AIDS, and regrets not doing more to help as he battled addictions early in his career.

He says his life changed when he met Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who became the poster child for HIV awareness during the 1980s AIDS crisis.

John's AIDS foundation has raised more than $300 million (approximately R4.2billion) for HIV- and AIDS-related programs since it was established in 1992.