FACE AIDS Chair of the Board
Brenda has been a leader in the fight against AIDS for over 20 years. She has served as the Chair of the Board of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and as the Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles under Mayor Richard Riordan. She has also served on the boards of Project Inform, Mothers' Voices, the Foundation for AIDS and Immune Research, and the honorary board of The Trevor Project. She has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS in India, recently founding the Women's Center for Y.R.G. CARE in Chennai. In addition, Brenda has been an executive in international satellite communications as well as an executive in healthcare management and strategic planning.
How did you get interested in global health?
I became interested in global health in late 1999 and in fact wanted to start a global program for mothers in 2000. I have attached a copy of a letter I wrote to Les Gelb, the head of the Foreign Affairs Council, at the beginning of 2000. He was very interested and put me in touch with his staff person on HIV, and the person on the National Security Council who was handling HIV. I subsequently met with the Secretary of HHW under Clinton, Donna Shalala, and she too was very interested. I was unable to move forward with that because of family issues — namely, my parents' illnesses and subsequent deaths.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite book(s) are by Albert Camus — The Stranger first and then The Plague. Camus covers eternal themes and issues with which we are confronted, personally and as a society. And his straightforward writing style is most appealing to me. I've read both several times over the course of my life.
What is the coolest part of your job?
The coolest part of what I do now is without question the people and cultures with which I've become involved over the past 25 years. During my professional life, the satisfaction came from dealing with and resolving complex issues. Now it's all about being human and understanding and working with enormously diverse and disparate people. Despite our enormous personal loss, I do know that my life's experiences are bigger and broader than they ever would have been had HIV/AIDS not inserted itself into our lives.
What is the one thing you wish somebody told you when you were 20?
Without question, "Do not be afraid to find your passion and pursue it!"