Jake Glaser: Why an AIDS-free generation means so much to me

ONE has been honored to partner with EGPAF over the years, including on our 2011 World AIDS Day event, and coming up this weekend, we’re thrilled to be a partner at their event “A Time for Heroes” in California. As we gear up for the event, read this moving piece from Elizabeth Glaser’s son Jake Glaser, who is HIV-positive, about what USAID’s Fifth Birthday campaign means to him and why the fight to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV is so critical.

At age 27, looking back at my fifth birthday is a trip to say the least.

Five years old was a confusing time for me and my family, and a roller coaster of emotions. The year before my fifth birthday, my older sister Ariel passed on after her long battle with HIV.

My mom, Elizabeth Glaser, was infected with HIV from a blood transfusion after giving birth to Ariel in 1981, and my sister and I were both infected through mother-to-child transmission. At the time, there were no drugs available for kids living with HIV, and no way to prevent a mother from passing on the virus to her baby.

My sister Ariel had supreme knowledge of why she was here. She showed great courage in the face of great fear, and it left an amazing impact on our family and on the world.

My mother chose to share her feelings, to reach out and let the world know how this affected our family. She showed us all empathy and gave great focus to ending this epidemic. Her expression made people realize how pediatric HIV affects our lives.

With the passing of my sister –- and knowing that my mother and I were also HIV-positive -– it was a scary time for our family and our community. But through that great chaos came amazing growth.

My mom and her two friends started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. A new chapter in our lives had begun, and I had just started kindergarten.

What started as a mom at her kitchen table with a dream to save her child’s life has now grown into a symbol of hope around the word.

Through research supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and other partners, there are now drugs available to treat children living with HIV. We’ve also been able to greatly reduce the risk of transmission of HIV from a mother to her baby. Today, the risk can be reduced to below 2 percent.

We now reach a global community, bringing the same work to sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of mothers and children with HIV live.

It is through teamwork that allows us to reach so many -– sharing ideas and working together to get the proper HIV education, prevention, and treatment to those who need it.

Every day around the world there are 1,000 new HIV infections due to mother-to-child transmission. If we keep our focus, we can make that number zero.

A new Global Plan has been introduced to make this a reality, and governments, NGOs, businesses, and the public are supporting it.

Partners like Johnson & Johnson, ONE, (RED), and others have focused on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and have brought great progress toward eliminating pediatric AIDS.

The world must join hands and work as one to achieve a generation born free of HIV. This goal is achievable through the partnered work of all the organizations that support this amazing dream -– a dream we can make a reality.

For me, the last 22 years have been fun, scary, exciting, memorable, and a whole bundle of emotions rolled into one. But it is the example my sister and my parents set for me that has brought me to where I am today -– an Advocate for life.

With every mother we reach to prevent the transmission of the virus to her baby, we give that child the opportunity to have a fifth birthday -– and many more.

Jake Glaser is the son of the AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, and an Ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.