AIDS Research Pioneer Mathilde Krim Dies After a Lifetime of Activism

Dr. Mathilde Krim, who was a champion of action amid the emerging AIDS crisis of the 1980s, has died at age 91.

The New York Times reports:

Mathilde Krim, who crusaded against the scourge of AIDS with appeals to conscience that raised funds and international awareness of a disease that has killed more than 39 million people worldwide, died on Monday at her home in Kings Point, N.Y. She was 91.

Her death was confirmed by Bennah Serfaty, a spokeswoman for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, of which Dr. Krim was the founding chairwoman.

Krim was born on July 9, 1926,  in Como, Italy, with the name Mathilda Galland. She received her PhD in Biology from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1953 and from there embarked on a highly praised career as a biomedical researcher. She would go on to work for Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, Cornell Medical College in NYC and New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she eventually headed the institution’s interferon laboratory.

As a virologist, Krim was among the first to recognize the potentially devastating scale of the AIDS crisis soon after the first cases caught national attention in 1981. Krim dedicated herself to raising awareness about AIDS — something that the U.S. government was slow to do when officials believed the AIDS epidemic was purely a “gay cancer.”

Krim used her education, her vast command of languages — she spoke Italian, German, French, Hebrew and English — as well as her connections in the political and entertainment sphere — made on her own merit and through her husband, entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim — to raise the profile of AIDS and gain funds for further research.

Dr. Krim herself became personally involved in AIDS research via her work into interferons, a group of signaling proteins that are released by host cells when confronted with forces that the body considers foreign or a potential threat, like viruses. Krim’s early work contributed to the grounding for modern interferon treatments that are used today to treat viral and neoplastic diseases. Ultimately, administering interferon for AIDS treatment wouldn’t prove to be a solution, but it’s undeniable that at a time when AIDS was routinely ignored by many physicians, Krim’s expertise was invaluable.

Dr. Krim was one of the founders* of the AIDS Medical Foundation, or AMF, in 1983. This was the first organization to champion AIDS research as a national health emergency. The AMF later merged with a Californian group to form the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR. The organization remains a global leader for clinical HIV/AIDS research, prevention and advocacy.

Dr. Krim would later serve as chairperson of the amfAR board between 1990 and 2004. She continued to advocate for HIV research throught her life, and in 2000 she was awarded thPresidential Medal of Freedom. 

On news of Mathilde Krim’s passing, amfAR released a statement that reads in part:

As amfAR’s founding chairman, and chairman of the board from 1990 to 2004, she was the heart and soul of the organization. She helped create it, supported it, kept it afloat more than once, and guided it with extraordinary dedication.  She testified on Capitol Hill on several occasions, and was a driving force behind legislation that expanded access to lifesaving treatment and behind efforts to scale up federal funding for AIDS research. In August 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Dr. Krim had a profound impact on the lives of so many. While we all feel a penetrating sadness at the loss of someone we loved deeply, it’s important to remember how much she gave the millions for whom she dedicated her life. There is joy to be found in knowing that so many people alive today literally owe their lives to this brilliant woman.

amfAR compiled the following video for their 25-year anniversary in 2011 to mark Krim’s remarkable work:

Thank you to Dr. Krim for her outstanding work in this field and for being a lifelong champion for communities affected by the AIDS crisis. She will be missed.

 

(*Edit 01/21/2018:  This post originally implied that Dr. Krim was the sole founder of the AMF. In fact, the action group was the work of several doctors and researchers working in tandem.)

Photo Credit: YouTube

55 comments

Karen B
Karen B18 days ago

Rest in peace...

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natasha p
Past Member 20 days ago

ty

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heather g
heather g21 days ago

A life of achievement and a great loss with her passing.

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Jan S
Jan S21 days ago

thank you for posting this

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Joan E
Joan E22 days ago

RIP and thank you for your life of service.

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Jerome S
Jerome S23 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S23 days ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim V23 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim V23 days ago

thanks for sharing

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