Finding A Cure For AIDS: Crossing The Final Frontier With LeVar Burton

By: Christopher Donaldson

From acting to outreach, LaVar Burton has worn many hats.

He played Kunta Kinte in the award-winning miniseries Roots, occupied the role of Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and carried his love of literacy to millions of children as host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow. His new focus, however, may prove the most important of them all—finding a cure for AIDS.

In a recent interview with former Advocate editor Ross von Metzke for HIV Plus Magazine, Burton opens up about his wide variety of charitable efforts and his public spokesmanship for the AIDS Research Alliance.

When asked why US based outreach remains crucial Burton says:

“Because that’s where the population of those infected is growing the fastest. And we still need to do a better job of educating our young. I get the impression that here in the United States, the prevailing attitude is, “Oh, we’ve got that licked. AIDS is pretty much over, right?” Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in terms of the population of young, African-American men and women . . . . we’re talking about the future of the human species, when you break it all the way down.”

345345He then explains how the AIDS epidemic touched his life on a personal level:

“The early ’80s—I saw a lot of colleagues going down and being taken, and we have certainly gone through a process of education in this business. I remember very, very clearly when Rock Hudson came out, and the ripple that sent through the town. There was, at that time, still very much a stigma. No one wanted to deal with it or address it. Then show business really educated itself. But then again we have a whole new generation of people who seem to have lost their minds, running around having unprotected sex. You just wonder, what are you thinking?”

And finally, what he’s willing to do to help:

“Right now, whatever they need for me to do, I’m up for it. Not that I could ever hope to fill her shoes, but I think the death of Elizabeth Taylor leaves a real void, and when ARA came to me, they said, “Look, we need help.” When I went in and sat down with them and heard the story and how committed they are to finding a cure, I thought, whatever I can do, I’m in.”

Click here to read the entire interview.