Jake Glaser's mother and young sister died of AIDS-related complications, and he's HIV-positive, but lives symptom-free, and doesn't even take medicine to keep the virus at bay anymore.
Jake, 23, credits what he calls "this beautiful gene" he inherited from his father, actor Paul Michael Glaser, of "Starsky and Hutch" TV fame, for enabling him to escape the virus' wrath so far.
Jake's mother, Elisabeth Glaser, contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to Jake's sister, Ariel. It turned out that Elizabeth had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that Jake, had contracted it in-utero.
Ariel lost her battle with AIDS in 1988, and a devastated Elizabeth was inspired to try to help save her son Jake and others like him from the same fate.
With the help of two friends, Elizabeth founded the , since renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and tirelessly campaigned for more research, awareness and fundraising. The foundation has been credited with increasing the availability of AIDS drugs to children and significantly cutting the number of pediatric cases in the United States..
Elizabeth succumbed to AIDS in 1994, but the Foundation's work continues, and Jake has picked up the torch.
His rare mutation, of the CCR5 gene, delays the onset of AIDS by restricting the HIV virus' ability to enter white blood cells. Jake's father has the same mutation which is, doctors say, why he didn't contract the virus.
Jake says he feels 100 percent healthy, despite having stopped all HIV-related medications.
He's traveled to Africa to meet children and lectures at college campuses across the country.
Jake told his family's tale on The Early Show Monday, calling the story "pretty amazing."
The mutation, Jake told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez, has enabled him to "carry the voice of so many children, so many people around the world who don't necessarily have the ability to travel and give a voice."
Calling the mutation "a wonderful positive defect," Jake speculated that it might play a role in finding a cure for AIDS one day. ... I really do think it could lead to huge breakthroughs for the medical community."
"I love speaking to people about" living with HIV today. It is, he said, very different than when he was young, and many people spurned him and his family because so little was known about AIDS at the time.
To watch the interview,
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