August 26, 2009
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who passed away in the early hours of August 26, blazed a legislative trail in the late 1980s that has helped extend the lives and protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS ever since.
"Senator Kennedy's extraordinary and steadfast advocacy in the early days of the AIDS epidemic is unrivaled in the history of the U.S. Senate," said amfAR's Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim. "Without him, we would not have made the many early advances in research that were achieved together."
Senator Kennedy's determined leadership was instrumental in securing the passage of landmark legislation such as the AIDS Research and Information Act of 1988, known as the HOPE Act, which accelerated and expanded AIDS research and established the first national AIDS prevention campaign.
The Ryan White CARE Act, passed in 1990, has helped provide treatment, care, and other essential services to tens of thousands of low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS. And Senator Kennedy helped ensure that AIDS was among the conditions included in the Americans with Disabilities Act, also of 1990.
Senator Kennedy pictured in 1996 with amfAR Founding International Chairman Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Senator Orrin Hatch. (Photo: Patsy Lynch)
It was at Dr. Krim's suggestion that amfAR's Program Officer Terry Beirn was referred to the Senator's office to help design the bills and secure their passage. Beirn, who died of AIDS in 1991, was memorialized by Senator Kennedy in the final product of this extraordinary partnership, the Terry Beirn Community-Based AIDS Research Initiative Act.
Senator Kennedy was twice honored by amfAR, first in 1990, and more recently with amfAR's Award of Courage at the Foundation's Capitol Hill Conference on AIDS in May 2009.
"Senator Kennedy inspired and uplifted all who had the privilege to know and work with him," said Kenneth Cole, amfAR's chairman of the board. "Maria and I feel honored to have known him, and all of us at amfAR are eternally grateful for his humanity and his unqualified support for the many millions infected and affected by the devastation of HIV/AIDS."
In 2007, Senator Kennedy was interviewed for a short film about amfAR. The Senator was asked by amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost what he thought amfAR stood for. "Without hesitation," said Frost, "the Senator answered, 'amfAR is going to stand for victory one day.' When that day comes -- the day of our victory over AIDS -- we'll remember with deep gratitude the leadership, intelligence, and compassion that Senator Kennedy brought to the fight against AIDS."