Laurie Robin Rosenthal Editor It is virtually impossible to find any adult in the world who has not heard of AIDS. Even more so, it’s hard to find people who don’t have their own personal stories to tell – losing a family member or a friend to this disease, still without a cure 25 years after first being diagnosed. Elizabeth Glaser got the AIDS virus the way many people used to in the early years of this disease that so stupefied the medical profession – through a blood transfusion. Elizabeth passed on the virus to her two children, Ariel and Jake. Today Jake is a healthy 21-year-old; however, it was the death of his sister at the age of seven that prompted his mother, along with a couple of friends, to begin the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in 1988. The work around the world the Santa Monica-based Foundation has done in 18 years includes funding research, getting medicine and education to those that need it and continually pushing the U.S. government, private industries and the medical profession to do more to help combat Pediatric AIDS. I spoke with Pamela Barnes, the fairly new President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation about what’s going on today in the world of Pediatric AIDS. Mirror: What progress in Pediatric AIDS do you see since the inception of the organization? Barnes: Joy and hope. The fact that in the United States as of today fewer than 200 a year are born HIV-infected is a huge victory, great progress. The actual number is 152. The disease is still very much impacting lives of children around the world. Mirror: Why has the number been reduced in the US? Barnes: Treatment to pregnant moms. It can be treated with a single dose, and the baby is treated immediately after birth. Mirror: Where do you think the cure if going to come from? Private or public funding, U.S. or overseas? Barnes: I wish I could tell you a cure is on the horizon. It’s really not. We have treatments that are thankfully keeping children alive. A cure is not near at hand. There is the need for more research, which is only going to come in the developed world, because frankly the science that will take us to a vaccine, in the developing world they don’t have the resources for that. The science, heavy duty work, has got to come from major academic medical institutions – University of California, San Francisco; UCLA; Children’s Hospital, Boston; Baylor University, Texas. Our foundation has a program for funding scientists, to fund the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award to the top Pediatric AIDS researchers…find the top doctors, fund them for five years. Mirror: How many new cases a year are there worldwide? Barnes: New cases a year around the world is 1900 a day born with HIV, 700,000. 50 percent will die before they’re two years old. Mirror: What fact regarding Pediatric AIDS do you think would surprise people? Barnes: That there is an intervention where if we can treat the mom at birth and the newborn…then they’re at least on the road for a healthy life. Mirror: What do you think the biggest misconception is about Pediatric Aids? Barnes: That it’s fixed. We’re not done yet. Mirror: What is your organization’s main source of funding? Barnes: We work with both public funds, the U.S. Government and private funds which come from individuals, foundations, corporations. Mirror: The 2005 Carnival raised $1.4 million. What percentage is that of your yearly donations? Barnes: As a percent of private funds, close to 10 percent. Mirror: Where does most of the money raised go? Barnes: The biggest part of the funding at this point goes to the field…prevention of mother to child and provisions to families. That program, antiretroviral, is largely funded by the U.S. government. Those funds are much larger than our private funding. This calendar year $60 million will come from the U.S. government. Largely private funding is geared to research, Elizabeth Glazer scientists, international scientists, research, advocacy. Mirror: In 25 years, where would you like to see Pediatric AIDS? Barnes: We don’t want to be talking about Pediatric AIDS in 25 years. It should be gone. May that be true. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s annual A Time for Heroes Celebrity Carnival is on Sunday, June 11 at the Wadsworth Theatre on the VA grounds. For more information, go to www.pedaids.org.
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