Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day: Honoring Pioneers

Typically when we think of AIDS activists, or symbols of the Anti-AIDS movement, Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John and Bill Clinton come to mind. This article takes a moment to honor just three of the less-known, less-celebrated pioneers in the movement, before AIDS activism was fashionable.

Louise Hay: Over three million copies of her book "You Can Heal Your Life", have sold worldwide. But it was in 1985, before supporting AIDS causes was popular, that Louise began a support group known as "The Hayride" with six men diagnosed with AIDS. By 1988, the weekly meeting drew a crowd of 800 people, and had to be moved to an auditorium in Santa Monica. During that time, she wrote "The AIDS Book: Creating a Positive Approach".

Louise went on to establish two nonprofit organizations, The Hay Foundation, and The Louis L. Hay Charitable Fund. Both charities support many diverse organizations, including those dealing with AIDS. Ms. Hay was considered highly controversial at the time she began working with AIDS patients, as were many who fought this highly politicized disease. Hats off to Louise.

Nkosi Johnson: When Nkosi died at the age of twelve, at the time he was the longest-surviving HIV positive child. Born with HIV, he first became widely known in 1997, when a primary school near Johannesburg refused to accept him as a student because of his status.

During his struggle, Nkosi was eventually credited for his huge impact on public perceptions of AIDS/HIV in South Africa. Before his death, he was the keynote speaker at the 13th International AIDS Conference. Nelson Mandela referred to Nkosi as an "icon for the struggle of life". Rest in peace, Nkosi.

Judith Light: Among all of the celebrity activists now out there fighting AIDS, one in particular stands out. Judith Light was not only there in the early days of HIV/AIDS, but has been a long-time supporter of equal rights for gays and lesbians. When asked about her passion for AIDS causes she replied: "I'm losing my friends. There's a very real epidemic out there that is preventable and I will not sit by passively and watch my friends die."

Judith's impressive resume includes work with the following causes: The Names Project, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Heart Strings, Northern Lights Alternatives, AmFAR, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Angel Food, Hollywood Supports, Shanti, and more. She has received numerous awards for her longstanding and devoted commitment to ending this disease. We love you Judith. Keep up the fight.

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