Elizabeth Glaser

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For the American folk artist, see Elizabeth Glaser (artist).
Elizabeth Glaser
Born Elizabeth Meyer
(1947-11-11)November 11, 1947
Died December 3, 1994(1994-12-03) (aged 47)
Nationality American
Known for AIDS activist and celebrity spouse.
Contracted HIV through blood transfusion.
Spouse(s) Paul Michael Glaser
Children Ariel (1981–1988), Jake (b. 1984)

Elizabeth Glaser (née Meyer; (1947-11-11)November 11, 1947 – December 3, 1994(1994-12-03)) was a major American AIDS activist and child advocate married to actor and director Paul Michael Glaser. She contracted HIV very early in the modern AIDS epidemic after receiving an HIV-contaminated blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth. Like other HIV-infected mothers, Glaser unknowingly passed the virus to her infant daughter, Ariel, through breastfeeding. Ariel was born in 1981 and died in 1988. The Glasers' son, Jake, born in 1984, contracted HIV from his mother in utero, but has lived into adulthood. Glaser died in 1994.


They underwent HIV testing in 1985, after the Glasers' daughter, Ariel, began suffering from a series of unexplained illnesses. Ariel had developed advanced AIDS at a time when the medical community knew very little about the disease and there were no available treatment options. She suffered some of the same ostracism from her school as made Ryan White famous.[1] Early in 1987, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved AZT as an effective drug to extend the lives of AIDS patients, but the approval only extended to adults. With their daughter's condition rapidly deteriorating, the Glasers fought to have her treated with AZT intravenously. However, the treatment came too late, and the child eventually succumbed to the disease late in the summer of 1988.[2]


Mourning the loss of her daughter and determined to save her surviving child, Jake, along with other HIV-positive children, Glaser co-founded the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in her kitchen in 1988, with friends Susan DeLaurentis and Susie Zeegen. Glaser's work raised public awareness about HIV infection in children and spurred funding for the development of pediatric AIDS drugs as well as research into mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. (Significantly, Glaser's children received the virus through two of the most common means of mother-to-child transmission.) The foundation is a major force in funding the study of pediatric HIV issues and tackling juvenile AIDS, both domestically and globally. Her book In the Absence of Angels (1991) is noted for its sensitive communication of the pain of the loss of a child and the intrusion of the media on a mother's grief.[3] Glaser was a sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi at the University of Wisconsin. In 2000, Alpha Epsilon Phi adopted the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation as their national philanthropy. Ariel later had a Beanie Baby named in her honor with the logo being a picture she drew when she was five.

Glaser entered the national spotlight as a speaker at the 1992 Democratic National Convention where she criticized the federal government's under-funding of AIDS research and its lack of initiative in tackling the AIDS crisis.[4] This speech is listed as #79 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century (listed by rank).[5] Glaser died in 1994 from complications of AIDS.[3]

The AIDS Memorial Quilt contains five panels with Elizabeth Glaser and her daughter Ariel Glaser's name on each of them, three panels with Elizabeth Glaser's name alone on each of them, and two panels with Ariel Glaser's name alone on each of them.[6]

Elizabeth Glaser's son, Jake, is now an adult who often speaks publicly on behalf of AIDS patients. He remains relatively healthy due to a mutation of the CCR5 gene that protects his white blood cells.[1]

See also[edit]

  • Martin Gaffney. Gafney contracted the AIDS virus from his wife Mutsuko Gaffney. Mutsuko Gaffney, like Elizabeth Glaser, got infected via a tainted blood transfusion and had a child contract HIV from his mother in utero.


  1. ^ a b Joanne, Fowler (2008-04-07). "Jake Glaser Alive and Thriving". People Magazine. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  2. ^ “Breaking a Silence: ‘Starsky’ Star, Wife Share Their Family's Painful Battle Against AIDS” L.A. Times. 25 August 1989. Accessed 6 December 2006.
  3. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy (1994-12-04). "Elizabeth Glaser Dies at 47; Crusader for Pediatric AIDS". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  4. ^ Glaser, Elizabeth. "1992 Democratic National Convention Address". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  5. ^ Michael E. Eidenmuller (2009-02-13). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  6. ^ "Search the Quilt — The Names Project". Aidsquilt.org. Retrieved 2015-09-01. 

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