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AIDS Activist Belinda Mason Dead at 33

September 10, 1991 GMT

HARTFORD, Ky. (AP) _ Belinda Mason, the only AIDS-infected member of the National Commission on AIDS and a critic of President Bush, lamented the loss of her identity as she became a symbol for the nation. She has died at age 33.

In an interview last month, Mason 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.″

Mason died Monday of AIDS-related pneumonia at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Her husband, Stephen Carden, said she had been hospitalized since Wednesday.

Mason, of Utica, Ky., was infected during a blood transfusion in 1987.

″She had an extraordinary ability to cut through confusion in issues of public policy and articulate the fundamental human issues involved,″ said Dr. June Osborn, head of the National Commission on AIDS.

She was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when President Bush appointed her to the advisory panel in 1989.

Mason also was a director of the AIDS Action Council, a Washington-based lobby, and a Kentucky group of AIDS activists.

″The president is sad to hear of her death,″ the White House said in a statement Monday. ″The president and Mrs. Bush send their sympathy to the family.″

Mason accused the Bush administration of treating AIDS as a moral issue rather than as a public-health issue. She was angry that AZT was the only AIDS drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

″It seems they would think that a condom and a pamphlet on how to use it would be a good investment, compared to lifetime health care,″ she said in June.

She said Bush appointed her because ″I was perfect. I was Southern, I was white, I was articulate and I got AIDS in a nice way.″

Mason’s career included reporting stints at The Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville and The Hartford (Ky.) Times News. She also wrote short stories.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her children, Polly, 8, and Clayton, 4; and two brothers, Nick Mason, of Tennessee, and Mark Mason, of Whitesburg.

Carden said his wife would be buried on their farm. Her funeral was schedulted for Thursday and a memorial service was scheduled for Sunday.