By David Ellis, former People Magazine writer and Editor-at Large at Bloomberg News
Elizabeth Glaser broke through a climate of ignorance and fear to teach Americans how to fight HIV/AIDS as a community. Her courageousness changed the national agenda. Her mission – as she put it in one of her final public appearances that I was privileged to report on – was to ``confront social discrimination and lack of education.'' She turned her grief about her daughter's death into an energy that helped her dedicate the remainder of her own shortened life to fighting pediatric HIV. The lives of children her foundation has saved are a daily tribute to her work and her memory.
My article, “The Defiant One,” published on December 19, 1994, was one of the first major AIDS-related stories the magazine covered. I was a young reporter, and this was the first time I covered the subject of HIV/AIDS professionally. Elizabeth's story mainstreamed the issue of HIV/AIDS for many readers and I learned valuable lessons about the power of journalism. The story put a human face on a tragedy and evoked an outpouring of compassion and sympathy from readers, many of whom simply feared the “plague” that many regarded as only affecting people they didn't know and to whom they couldn't relate. Personally, I saw in Elizabeth Glaser the supreme dignity an individual can have when facing an unjust, early death.
Elizabeth would be gratified to know her legacy lives on in helping others live full lives, thanks to new treatments that didn't exist 20 years ago. But I am sure she wouldn't be satisfied until the threat of HIV/AIDS was completely eliminated worldwide.