amfAR Mourns the Passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy

For People Living with HIV/AIDS, a Senate Ally Without Equal

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.”

On the Huffington PostamfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost called Senator Kennedy “an unrivaled ally in the fight against AIDS.”

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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.

Senator Kennedy
Senator Kennedy pictured in 1996 with amfAR Founding International Chairman Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Senator Orrin Hatch. (Photo: Patsy Lynch)

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.

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.”Highlights of Senator Kennedy’s Leadership on HIV/AIDS

Dr. Merv Silverman, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1991 at the opening of amfAR’s original Public Policy office in Washngton, DC.
Dr. Merv Silverman, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1991 at the opening of amfAR’s original Public Policy office in Washngton, DC.
  • 1986:  Sen. Kennedy sponsored legislation to establish a network of education and outpatient services for people living with HIV.
  • 1987:  As the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Health Committee, Se. Kennedy held the first ever congressional hearing on AIDS, which he said he decided to make the committee’s “top priority.”
  • 1988:  Sen. Kennedy successfully secured funding for the first substantial federal initiative related to AIDS treatment, including expanded home and community care for people living with HIV and AIDS, easier access to experimental drugs, and a new national commission to establish AIDS policy.
  • 1990:  Sen. Kennedy introduced with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) the groundbreaking Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act, which provided emergency relief to 13 cities hardest hit by AIDS and also provided assistance to every state to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs. amfAR recognized both Hatch and Kennedy that year for their efforts to pass the CARE Act.
  • 2000:  Ryan White CARE Act reauthorized.
  • 2003:  Kennedy cosponsored an amendment to the FY2003 Budget Resolution that provided additional funding for the global effort to combat AIDS. The amendment increased funding by $200 million in 2002 and $500 million in 2003.
  • 2006:  Ryan White CARE Act reauthorized.
  • 2009:  amfAR honored Sen. Kennedy with its Award of Courage for Kennedy’s “forceful advocacy in the Senate for people living with HIV/AIDS.” Kennedy’s son Patrick, a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, accepted on his father’s behalf at amfAR’s landmark Capitol Hill conference on AIDS.

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide

“Having personally known and worked with Senator Kennedy for more than two decades, I can say without equivocation that he was the greatest health care champion and advocate for fighting AIDS in the history of the United States Senate.” 

Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., amfAR senior policy and medical advisor and former assistant U.S. surgeon general

“There was no greater champion on AIDS in the Senate, and Senator Kennedy’s work on that issue was consistent with everything he stood for: equality, justice and an unapologetic understanding of the essential role of government in addressing the needs of all of us, including the most vulnerable.”

Chris Collins, M.P.P., amfAR vice president and director, public policy

“When the history of AIDS is written, one person will be recognized as doing more than any other in the legislative halls of Washington to provide for prevention services, treatment, and care for millions of Americans. That person is Senator Kennedy.”

Mervyn F. Silverman, M.D., M.P.H., chairman, amfAR program board

Additional Links
Statement from amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost appearing on the Huffington Post