Text and Photos by Sean Black
ith the season of giving already in full swing, amidst star-studded galas drawing big names and big dollars, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) on Thursday, October 18th took a decidedly more intimate approach. Uniting strategic partners and longtime, community allies over continental breakfast fête, the organization reflected on the work set into motion by its starlet-turned-humanitarian founder to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) Elizabeth Taylor Mobile Health Clinics. Recognizing the vital partnerships of attendees who gallantly carry her torch, the efficacy and impact of ETAF’s work through its mobile health clinic program has resulted in free healthcare to over 1.5 million Malawians.
“I count myself as one of the lucky who have a chance to take moments, days and sometimes weeks to passionately contribute to causes and charitable health-relief efforts that are close to my heart” humbly stated actor Scott Wolf endeared to us through his 90’s role as Bailey Salinger, one of the orphaned siblings on Fox’s hit TV series Party of Five.
Wolf, a longtime friend to HIV/AIDS-related causes served as Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics AIDS Foundation’s Caring 4 Kids Co-Chair along with Brooke Shields in the organization’s earlier College Engagements Program. Wolf continues his advocacy today as a champion for ETAF & the Nothing But Nets Malawi Partnership.
Joel Goldman, Managing Director at ETAF implemented the Caring 4 Kids program as EGPAF’s former Director of Special Projects. Remaining a close friend of Wolf’s, Goldman kicked-off the panel discussion and paid tribute to how Elizabeth Taylor’s vision to bring HIV testing and access to treatment has evolved over the last decade abroad, particularly in the southern region of Malawi. Wolf with his wife Kelly, who were introduced by Goldman over a decade and a half ago, have been tireless advocates where they have been and able to travel throughout Africa and witness the work that is being done first-hand.
“There are some misconceptions,” enlightened Wolf about global relief efforts.
“One of them is this relationship between the people giving aide and the people receiving it and often times I think in people’s minds there is a separation; this ‘us’ and ‘they.’
“However, because of the work that Joyce Jere, [GAIA Country Director] is doing I see people from within these communities who are wholly participating in these [self-enhancing] efforts. It’s Malawians helping Malawians. There becomes this sense of investment and as a parent I am struck by the faces of gratitude of these children receiving services and hope.”
In her legendary foresight, Elizabeth Taylor envisioned mobile testing at a community level globally. She advocated strongly for testing, not only HIV but for other diseases such as TB, Malaria and Diabetes at a grassroots level setting a platform for openness and support from within resounding Wolf’s claim this many years later.
Jere who lives with her fellow Malawians is responsible for implementation of the GAIA nurse education program which serves 450 recipients under our $2.9 million dollar cooperative agreement with USAID. She has more than 15 years of professional work experience with the Malawi Ministry of Health. At the forum she described some of the most difficult hurdles in getting people to testing in rural areas claiming that many have to travel great distances (up to 12 Kilometers, more than 7 miles). Travelling such distances makes arriving during business operating hours of the clinics very difficult at the very least. “This is not possible for many compounded with when they are sick. So we have a team that goes out every day and carries medication and testing kits into the villages. Bringing the services to the community is key.”
Embracing the 90-90-90 Treatment Targets released by UNAIDS in 2014, hoping to control the virus by 2030, Malawi’s Ministry of Health, Department of HIV & AIDS reports that because of Malawi’s rapid and successful ART scale-up from 2004 to 2014, there has been a tremendous impact on the HIV epidemic, reducing mortality, morbidity, and transmission. In the single decade since starting the national treatment program, 275,000 deaths had been averted and 1 out of every 20 Malawi adults is now on ART.
Ambassador Deborah Birx emphasized the urgent need for furthering the openness of lines of communication amongst the sexes about the importance of testing, and to advocate for new innovations and thinking that allows us to adapt and ‘scale’ successful models outside of the United States in other countries. “Forcing groups to communicate across diseases” is necessary in order to critically expand the effective work of vibrant foundations such as ETAF and GAIA. Proving success with these innovative care models will allow them to then filter up into governments and agencies.”
Other prominent community leaders and supporters also in attendance were Quinn Tivey, Officer of ETAF and grandson of Elizabeth Taylor, Tim Mendelson and Barbara Berkowitz both officers of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust, Sandy Thurman, former Clinton Administration Director of National AIDS Policy now with PEPFAR, Cornelius Baker, Robin Buss-Kaplan with Delta Airlines, Robin Smalley, Co-Founder of Mothers2Mothers and Ron Rolleston, EVP Global Fragrance Marketing for Elizabeth Arden. As part of Elizabeth Taylor’s passionate commitment and fearless leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, 25% of her royalties from White Diamonds and other partnerships using her name and likeness are directed to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
In his follow-up Goldman thanked attendees and supporters via an email noting, “We are so grateful to have an implementing partner like GAIA and partnerships with Grassroot Soccer, Nothing But Nets, and Mothers2Mothers, all of who are helping us break down stigma and reach men, women, and children with life-saving services. We are also thankful to Delta Airlines, who gets our staff and Ambassadors to Africa to do our critical work.”
The breakfast preceding the panel discussion was graciously hosted by United Talent Agency (UTA). UTA is one of the largest talent agencies in the world, representing many of the world’s most acclaimed figures in every current and emerging area of entertainment and media. Besides Los Angeles UTA has offices in New York, London, Nashville, Miami and Malmo, Sweden.
For more information about The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and how to donate please logon to www.etaf.org.
Sean Black is Senior Editor with A&U. Follow him on Twitter @SeanBlackPhoto.