Belinda Mason, AIDS activist

Published Sep. 10, 1991|Updated Oct. 14, 2005

AIDS activist Belinda Mason, the only member of President Bush's National Commission on AIDS infected with the virus, died Monday (Sept. 9, 1991). She was 33. Stephen Carden, her husband, in a telephone interview from their home in Utica, Ky., said his wife died around 8 a.m. at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Mrs. Mason's mother and father, state Rep. Paul Mason, were with her when she died, Carden said.

Doug Williams, a hospital spokesman, said she died of AIDS-related pneumonia.

Mrs. Mason, who had been hospitalized since Wednesday, became infected with HIV _ the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome _ in January 1987 while receiving a blood transfusion during the birth of her second child. She was diagnosed with the disease in October 1988.

In an interview this summer, she said: "I have become the disease. When people talk to me now, they see the disease first. Nobody talks to Belinda Mason the short-story writer any more. My previous identity has dissolved. . . . I've become an AIDS poster child."

Besides her husband, she leaves two children, Polly, 8, and Clayton, 4. Her husband said she would be buried on their farm.

Mrs. Mason, originally of Whitesburg, Ky., founded Kentuckiana People With AIDS, the first Kentucky-based group dedicated to fighting for a cure. She also was a member of the AIDS Action Council, a national AIDS lobbying group.

She was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when Bush appointed her in 1989 to the commission created by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.

She was critical of the Bush administration, saying it treated the AIDS crisis as a moral issue instead of as a public-health issue. She wrote a letter to Bush on Aug. 2 asking him to use his influence to keep people with AIDS from being stigmatized.

"The President is sad to hear of her death," deputy White House press secretary Judy Smith said. "The President and Mrs. Bush send their sympathy to the family."

Mrs. Mason moved to western Kentucky in 1990. She worked as a reporter for the Appalachian News Express in Pikeville and the Hartford Times News, both Kentucky weeklies, and wrote short stories before becoming involved in the AIDS organizations.