Elizabeth Glaser’s fight to save her HIV-positive children led to her creation of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation to save children worldwide from the devastation of AIDS. Glaser became infected with HIV in 1981 due to a blood transfusion and passed the disease to her children. Later, Glaser raised awareness of pediatric AIDS and pushed to extend availability of the drug AZT to children. In 1988, Glaser founded the Pediatric AIDS Association. In 1992, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention, criticizing the government’s failure to address the AIDS crisis. Her 1991 book, In the Absence of Angels, was praised for its honest discussion of losing a child. Glaser lost her battle with AIDS in 1994.
Elizabeth Glaser made a significant contribution to the littlest AIDS victims. Mobilized to save her own HIV-infected children, Glaser founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (PAF) in 1988, which to date has raised more than $50 million.
Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion during pregnancy and then passed the disease through her breast milk to her daughter, Ariel, born on August 4, 1981. Ariel later succumbed to AIDS on August 12, 1988. Her son Jake, born on October 25, 1984, became infected in utero but remains asymptomatic, and her husband Paul Glaser is uninfected.
Elizabeth Ann (Meyer) Glaser was born on November 11, 1947, to Max and Edith Meyer. Max was vice president of the General Cigar Company, and Edith became director of urban renewal for the Town of Hempstead after Elizabeth and her younger brother Peter were in school. She was raised in Hewlett Harbor, New York. She attended the University of Wisconsin and received a master’s degree in early childhood education from Boston University. After a brief marriage in the early 1970s and then a move to California, she began teaching in West Hollywood. Soon thereafter, she married the actor and director Paul Glaser on August 24, 1980.
Glaser was not raised as a practicing Jew; in fact, the family had a Christmas tree each year. However, as an adult, she visited Israel with her husband on that country’s thirtieth birthday and felt a deep spiritual connection and quiet sense of belonging there. She took up Judaism when she had children. She felt it was important to give her daughter a Hebrew name, and she and Ariel would bake challah and light candles on Friday nights. Glaser joined a temple and went to classes to learn more about Judaism, and after her death, notebooks were found filled with recipes and short stories about the Jewish holidays.
Glaser’s efforts with PAF cofounders Susan De Laurentis and Susie Zeegan led to numerous public appearances, including a profile for 60 Minutes (aired February 4, 1990) and her moving testimony at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. She received the UCLA medal, the humanitarian award from the City University of New York, and the Women in Film Foundation’s Crystal Award. She was active until her death on December 4, 1994.
“HIV made Elizabeth more of who she already was,” De Laurentis recalled. “She was smart, funny, athletic, and had great energy. I think what she chose to do when her family was diagnosed showed how courageous she was; instead of giving up, she turned it into an amazing, amazing fight.”
Brozan, Nadine. “Chronicle.” NYTimes, November 13, 1992, B2, and “Commencements.” May 28, 1993, B6.
De Laurentis, Susan, cofounder, Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Interview with author. April 24, 1996.
Glaser, Elizabeth. Photographs and tapes. Pediatric AIDS Foundation, NYC; Glaser, Elizabeth, and Laura Palmer. In the Absence of Angels (1991).
Kennedy, Randy. “Elizabeth Glaser Dies at 47.” NYTimes, December 5, 1994, B10.
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“U.C.L.A. Presents 4 Medals at Graduation.” NYTimes, June 21, 1993, A15.