NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Belinda Mason, the only AIDS-infected member of the National Commission on AIDS and an outspoken critic of President Bush's AIDS-research policy, died yesterday of complications from the disease. She was 33.
Mason, who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, died of AIDS-related pneumonia at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said hospital spokesman Doug Williams.
Her husband, Stephen Carden, said she had been hospitalized since Wednesday.
"She brought a depth of compassion and humanity to the National Commission on AIDS that will be sorely missed," said the commission's head, Dr. June Osborn.
Mason, of Utica, Ky., was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when Bush appointed her in 1989 to the commission created by Congress to advise lawmakers and the president on AIDS issues.
She was often critical of Bush's stance on AIDS, contending the administration treated the AIDS crisis as a moral issue instead of as a public-health issue.
"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 once said.
The White House said in a statement that "the president is sad to hear of her death. The president and Mrs. Bush send their sympathy to the family."
She said Bush chose her for the commission because "I was perfect. I was Southern, I was white, I was articulate and I got AIDS in a nice way."
Mason became infected with the AIDS virus in January 1987 while receiving a blood transfusion during the birth of her second child. She was diagnosed as having the disease in October 1988.
Mason worked as a reporter for The Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville and The Hartford Times News, both small community newspapers in Kentucky, and wrote short stories before becoming involved in the AIDS organizations.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her children, Polly, 8, and Clayton, 4; her parents; and two brothers.