December 1st is World AIDS day. World AIDS Day is important because it reminds us that HIV has not gone away, and there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. We commemorate women who are fighting against AIDS.
Elizabeth Glaser gained fame and notoriety through her tremendous efforts to fight this disease. She contracted HIV in 1981 but did not find out until 1985. As a result, she unwittingly passed on the virus to both of her children. Her daughter Ariel lost her life in 1988, but her son, Jake, is alive and well today. Following Ariel's death, Glazer co-founded what is now known as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, one of the leading AIDS charities in the world. The Foundation is dedicated to preventing and eliminating HIV/AIDS in children. Elizabeth died in 1994, but her legacy lives on through her foundation.
Gia Carangi was a world-famous fashion model in the '70s and '80s. She was among the most sought-after models of her time and graced the cover of such magazines as Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Her career was cut short in the early '80s after she developed a debilitating heroin addiction. She was later diagnosed with AIDS and died of a related illness in 1986 at the age of 26. Her death was largely kept quiet; few in the fashion industry even knew of her passing, and her funeral service was modest. Her story was eventually told in Gia, the aptly titled HBO biographical film starring Angelina Jolie.
Rebekka Armstrong is a Playboy Playmate whose announcement in 1994 that she was HIV-positive made international headlines. She became one of the best-known public faces of heterosexual HIV transmission. Refusing to live in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, Rebekka has dedicated herself over the past 19 years to preventing others from becoming infected.
Alison Gertz was an AIDS activist who shared the story of her diagnosis with the New York Times and appeared on numerous television shows. She spoke with teenagers on the subject of safe sex, and founded the groups Concerned Parents for AIDS Research and Love Heals, with the help of her parents.
Beatrice Were is a Ugandan AIDS activist. She discovered that she was HIV-positive in 1991, a month after her husband died of AIDS. In 1993, she co-founded the non-governmental organization NACWOLA to unite Ugandan women living with HIV and to improve the quality of their lives. She has served as national coordinator of NACWOLA, and as the Executive Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Uganda. She is currently National Coordinator for HIV/AIDS for ActionAid Uganda.