AIDS Fight Starts at Home

Wall Street Journal | October 19, 2010

Longtime Foundation friend and current Board member Bill Belfiore and his wife, Susan, were recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. Read the story and click through to the original article below.

In 1991, Bill and Susan Belfiore took four HIV-positive toddlers from Romania into their Princeton, N.J., home.

Fighting initial discrimination within their community, they turned to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation for help: The Foundation, started by activist Elizabeth Glaser after she contracted HIV via a blood transfusion while giving birth to her daughter in 1981, had created educational materials about how to cope with schools afraid of educating children with the virus.

Nearly 20 years later, the Belfiore children are attending college, dating and have become AIDS activists in their own right, speaking at Foundation events and traveling to Africa to visit program sites.

"The Foundation has been crucial for our children and others to know that there are people out there who care about them and that they aren't alone with dealing with this disease," Mr. Belfiore says.

To that end, the Belfiores are giving $50,000 to the Foundation ahead of its Kids for Kids Carnival on Nov. 6, a carnival that raises about $1.5 million a year for research and education on pediatric HIV and AIDS.

Over the years, the Belfiores have given or raised more than half a million dollars for the Foundation, and in 2006 Mr. Belfiore joined its board of directors.

The Foundation has largely been credited for its work with the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which was passed by Congress in 2003 and dramatically increased the number of drugs tested and labeled for use in children. In 1999, the Foundation expanded to become a global nonprofit and it now works in 17 countries with the goal of engendering a generation without HIV.

"Elizabeth Glaser championed the laws that are in effect now so that drugs that come to market have to be tested for children," Mrs. Belfiore says. "Now, we have the opportunity to eradicate this disease that has caused so much pain from an entire generation."

While the mother-to-child transmission of the disease has been nearly eliminated in the developed world, the charity says nearly 1,200 children around the world are infected with HIV every day because their mothers don't have access to preventative medicines.

More than half of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries now receive medicines to help prevent transmission of HIV to their babies, triple the percentage from three years ago, the Foundation says.

One in four of those women receive medications from a Foundation-supported program.

"It's a huge job and it's one step at a time," Mr. Belfiore says. "You don't say, 'Oh my God, this is too big for anyone to do,' you get on the ground and do what you can and you start to see real results that work."