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Young Hemophilia and AIDS Activist Dies at 26

Grant Lewis, a young speaker and advocate for AIDS education, died on January 17, 2006 in Licking, MO at the age of 26. As an adolescent, he began visiting local schools and churches in order to educate the public about the disease. Lewis contracted the HIV virus at age two, from a blood product used to treat his hemophilia.

He soon became a national spokesperson for AIDS awareness, making many public appearances. At the age of thirteen, he spoke at a U.S. Senate hearing in support of funding (The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency CARE Act) for people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, he testified at National Institute of Medicine hearings concerning blood safety and helped lobby Congress for governmental compensation (Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act) for those with hemophilia who were infected through HIV-contaminated clotting factor. Lewis also reached the public by making several national television appearances with talk show host Phil Donahue and HIV positive athletes such as swimmer Greg Louganis and basketball player Magic Johnson.

In 1994, Lewis joined Camp Heartland and its Journey of Hope AIDS Awareness Tour, an East coast speaking circuit from New York to Florida. He later became a counselor at the camp, the nation’s largest for children with HIV/AIDS. “He had a common bond with the other kids. He spent time with others who were in worse shape than he was. He made other kids feel better,” said Neil Willenson, founder and CEO of Camp Heartland in Minnesota. Lewis is survived by his parents, Jerry and Linda, his brother Blake and his sisters, Ashton and MaKayla.

Source: Springfield News-Leader, January 19, 2006


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