FOLLOWING THE BIRTH OF HER DAUGHTER, Ariel, in 1981, Elizabeth Glaser was infected with the AIDS virus through a transfusion of tainted blood. She did not learn that she was HIV positive—or that she had passed the virus to her daughter through breast-feeding—until four years later, when Ariel developed the disease, which she bravely battled until her death at age 7.
It was, of course, a devastating loss for Elizabeth, her husband, actor-director Paul Michael Glaser, and their young son, Jake, now 8, who is also HIV positive. “I thought, ‘It’s not okay for me ever to be happy again, because I’ve lost my child,’ ” Glaser told PEOPLE in 1991. “But I’ve learned that the challenge of my life is to be happy in the face of losing my child.” Glaser, now 45, has met that challenge by investing her formidable talents as activist and fund-raiser in the nonprofit Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which she cofounded with Susan DeLaurentis and Susie Zeegen in 1988. Its mission: to identify and fund critically needed pediatric AIDS research.
To that end, the foundation hosts an annual “Time for Heroes” picnic and carnival, always a draw on the Hollywood charity circuit. On June 6 such incandescents as Magic Johnson. Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Billy Crystal, Candice Bergen. Warren Beatty and their children turned out for the affair, helping to raise $1.25 million (see story on page 34).
This year, PEOPLE, along with the Milken Family Medical Foundation, was proud to underwrite the festivities. “It’s an honor for PEOPLE to contribute to an event that means so much to so many here,” said PEOPLE managing editor Landon Y. Jones Jr. “Journalists are too often seen as portraying Hollywood negatively. It was exciting for us to participate in something that was so clearly positive and that made a contribution to the community that we write about.”
Glaser gave PEOPLE readers a glimpse of her private struggle with the disease when an excerpt from her book. In the Absence of Angels, was published in the magazine Feb. 4, 1991. “She’s an articulate advocate of her cause,” says Jones, who visited the foundation’s Santa Monica office in March.
By the year 2000, the World Health Organization predicts that 10 million children will be infected with HIV, and AIDS will be one of the five leading causes of death among young people worldwide. “Our goal won’t be realized until we’re saving lives,” says Glaser. “AIDS impacts all people. It’s a problem of humanity.”
I agree. If PEOPLE’S affiliation with the Pediatric AIDS Foundation can heighten the public’s awareness and raise money to combat this insidious epidemic, then we’re using our name and the popularity of our magazine to reach the public in a most effective way.