Feb. 19, 2006 -- Actor Richard Gere has been longtime supporter of AIDS research -- hosting the 1992 World AIDS Day event at the United Nations -- and of India -- establishing the Gere Foundation India Trust in 1999 to support humanitarian programs. Now, he is seeking to combine those two interests as he joins the campaign to stop the spread of AIDS in India.
Richard Gere: When I decided that I needed to do something about this in India, I had to go through an education process with issues that were specifically in India.
And there were very few clinics, I found -- very few, totally under-funded, handfuls in the whole country. And one I went to, the Nas Foundation in Delhi-- And my good friend Angelie started it and runs that for AIDS orphans, but then she's sort of taking on mature women as well.
And the first time I went there, I spent time with these kids who were essentially being left to die, as almost everyone [with AIDS] who was in India was being left to die.
She asked me to speak to these three women who had just come there. One had come from very far away, from Manipur. It was on the border of Burma. And there was no one there in her state that could take care of her. She was ostracized. She was sent away from her village. And she went all of, I think it's close to 1,500 miles to the Nas Foundation. She'd heard of this place and she went there.
And she came in, and she was very ill and had had no care at all. And she was sitting across the table from Angelie and there was a pitcher of water and there were two glasses.
And Angelie asked her to tell her what her situation had been, and she told of kind of horrific stories of how badly she'd been treated and literally beaten and driven out of her village. And she lost her child. She lost other family.
And she found her way there and she was in tears and humiliated to have to tell her story.
Angelie poured a glass of water for her. And she took the glass, shaking, and continued to tell her story -- and put the glass down.
And Angelie reached over and took the same glass and went to drink it. And the woman stopped her and said, "Oh, no, no, no."
And Angelie drank the water out of the same glass that she did. And it was as if years of weight immediately left this woman -- that she was in the presence of acceptance and love and compassion and wisdom.
Angelie knew that she was not going to get HIV/AIDS from drinking from the same glass.
We all have to drink from the same glass and know that it's okay. We're all in this together.
And as Americans, with the almost unlimited funds, we have to do good in the world for ourselves and other. To not do this, it's a waste of the promise of who we are as Americans and what we are as a country and want to be, aspire to be -- literally saving perhaps 10 million, 20 million lives by focusing, in the scheme of things, a relatively small amount of money.
To learn more about Richard Gere's humanitarian work, visit www.healingthedivide.org.