For 25 years, LeVar Burton served as the executive producer and host of Reading Rainbow, sharing a love of books and reading with kids—and teaching them a thing or two about social advancements and important historical moments in the process. The actor, best known for his award-nominated performances in Roots and on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has spent his career using his talents for a greater good. Now, as the spokesperson for the AIDS Research Alliance, Burton is dedicated to a new cause—eradicating HIV/AIDS.
So many organizations out there are focused on treatment. The AIDS Research Alliance has made finding a cure its sole focus. Why was that appealing to you?
Treatment is the norm in this pandemic, but there’s really no organization out there raising money to find a cure. So when they asked, after sitting down and hearing from them what the story of the ARA is and what their intentions are and the work they’re doing, I thought, I would have to be soulless or dead to refuse.
So much of the focus among AIDS charities right now is on underdeveloped countries, but the ARA is based in and is focusing the bulk of its resources on the United States. Why was that important to you?
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. It’s growing at an alarming rate in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s growing at an alarming rate in China. Really, we’re talking about the future of the human species, when you break it all the way down.
Read the rest of the interview at HIV Plus.