Gloria Reuben first started grappling with HIV issues as part of her role on ER, as physician assistant Jeanie Boulet, one of the first openly HIV-positive characters on prime-time TV. But soon, the scripts began to take over her off-duty thoughts. “It follows you around wherever you go,” says Reuben, who was on the ER set until 1999. And when she accepted an invitation to a fundraiser from the late Elizabeth Glaser, she stepped into a new role as an AIDS activist.
This past July, Reuben, who now plays a legal eagle on TNT’s new series Raising the Bar, was the featured speaker at a Minnesota AIDS Project forum in Minneapolis. In August, she accompanied the CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation on a three-day tour of clinics and hospitals in South Africa. And on Dec. 1, she will participate in World AIDS Day, as she has for the past several years. She’s also a board member for the U.S. Sexuality Information and Education Council.
About 40 million people are living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Each day, 14,000 more become infected. HIV drugs have vastly improved the quality of life for many of these people, but they don't yet provide a cure. That's why researchers are working so hard to develop an HIVvaccine.
There’s too much yet to do to cut back, Reuben says. Nearly 1.2 million Americans live with HIV or AIDS; in 2006, more than 56,000 new cases of HIV or AIDS were reported. “The stigma surrounding AIDS has improved a great deal,” she says, “but there is still a long way to go.” Reuben prefers grassroots activism to star-studded events. “My focus is to get more into the community, getting people more involved in their own health care,” she says. “There will always be funds that need to be raised. But as people get involved on an individual level, it has a way of sustaining itself over time.” That’s something Reuben knows firsthand.