Pioneering AIDS Researcher Dr. Mathilde Krim, Who Battled The Virus And Stigma, Dead At Age 91

"I know that I would not be alive today without the efforts of Dr. Mathilde Krim."

The dawn of the AIDS crisis was a time of chaos, confusion and misinformation. But there was one woman who saw the devastation and dedicated herself to raising public awareness about its cause and treatment.

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Dr. Mathilde Krim, a pioneer in the battle against HIV/AIDS passed away Monday at age 91. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

In 1983, Krim founded the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), the first private organization dedicated to AIDS research. Two years later, AMF evolved into American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), a leader in mobilizing funds for trailblazing clinical trials, AIDS prevention and sound public policy.

Krim was born in Mathilde Galland in Como, Italy, in 1926. After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Geneva in 1953, she pursued research in cancer-causing viruses and helped developed an early method for determining the sex of a fetus.

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According to amfAR:

She moved to New York and joined the research staff of Cornell University Medical School following her marriage, in 1958, to the late Arthur B. Krim, a New York attorney, then head of United Artists Motion Picture Company and later founder of Orion Pictures.

Starting in 1962, Dr. Krim worked as a research scientist at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research and, from 1981–1985, she was the director of its Interferon Laboratory. She now holds the academic appointment of adjunct professor of Public Health and Management, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Dr. Krim is amfAR’s founding chair and was, from 1990–2004, the chairman of the board. She holds 16 doctorates honoris causa and has received many other honors and distinctions.

ACT UP veteran Pete Staley called Krim “a warrior against homophobia and AIDS-related stigma, dedicated defender of science and public health, and mother-figure and mentor to countless activists.”

“[She] will leave a deep hole in the continued fight against AIDS—a fight she dedicated her life to,” he added.

Recently elected New York City Council member Corey Johnson posted his own tribute on Facebook.

“Today the world lost the one of the most important figures in the history of the fight against HIV/AIDS,” he wrote. “As an HIV-positive man who has been living with the virus for over 13 years, I know that I would not be alive today without the efforts of Dr. Mathilde Krim.”

Throughout her life Krim was a staunch civil right activist, working to end Apartheid in South Africa, support the State of Israel, and foster the nascent gay rights movement, among many other causes. In 2000 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.’ highest civilian honor, by President Clinton.

We can’t express our gratitude for for her work—both as a researcher and an activist. Our thoughts are with Dr. Krim’s loved ones.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery