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Mathilde Krim, amfAR Founder Dies at 91


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Posted in the Political Forum because a HBO documentary on Mrs. Krim demonstrated how she used her formidable political connections to educate and raise money.

 

For me. Mrs, Krim has long been my most admired person in the world. I am so glad many viewers now appreciate her fully because of HBO. She was well known in New York, Washington Europe, and Lady Bird Johnson.

 

Obituaries

Mathilde Krim, Mobilizing Force in an AIDS Crusade, Dies at 91

By ROBERT D. McFADDENJAN. 16, 2018

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Dr. Mathilde Krim spoke about AIDS before the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2011. Credit Lucas Jackson/Reuters

 

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.

 

When the nation learned in the early 1980s that the AIDS virus had begun its terrifying attack upon the human immune system, Dr. Krim, a geneticist and virologist with wide experience in cancer research and a passion for causes, plunged into a fight not only against the virus but also for the civil rights of people who had it.

 

Over the next several decades, she became America’s foremost warrior in the battle against superstitions, fears and prejudices that have stigmatized many people with AIDS, subjecting them to rejection and discrimination. There is still no cure for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which has become pandemic, although antiretroviral medication can slow the disease and may lead to near-normal life expectancy with prompt diagnosis and treatment.

 

In 2016, there were more than 36.7 million people, worldwide, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or H.I.V., which causes AIDS. That was 300,000 fewer than in 2015, but the cases nevertheless resulted in one million deaths, down from a peak of 1.9 million in 2005.

 

The virus that causes AIDS is spread by many vectors: through sex, needle-sharing among drug users and accidental needle sticks among medical personnel, as well as through blood transfusions and from mother to infant during pregnancy or breast feeding.

 

In Africa, where the disease originated and where it is most widespread, most transmission is through heterosexual sex.

 

In the early days of the American epidemic, AIDS killed large numbers of hemophiliacs, infected by tainted blood-clotting factors, and Haitians, because the virus had apparently reached the Americas there first.

 

But the American public focused on two other high-risk groups, gay men and drug addicts, people long shunned by family-oriented Americans and the mostly heterosexual establishment.

 

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Dr. Krim in 1992 with Dr. Mervyn F. Silverman, then the president of amfAR, the AIDS research organization of which she was the founding chairwoman.

 

“They felt that “this was a disease that resulted from a sleazy lifestyle, drugs or kinky sex — that certain people had learned their lesson and it served them right,” Dr. Krim told The New York Times Magazine in 1988. “That was the attitude, even on the part of respectable foundations that are supposed to be concerned about human welfare.”

 

Money for research and literature to educate the public were needed, and Dr. Krim had access to both. Her husband was the entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim, a former chairman of United Artists and Orion Pictures and of the Democratic National Finance Committee. He was a confidant of many national leaders, including Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

 

Dr. Krim mobilized a galaxy of friends from the worlds of politics, the arts, entertainment, society and Wall Street. She organized art sales, auctions, fashion shows and other fund-raisers, held benefit parties at her Manhattan townhouse, gave television interviews, lobbied government officials and testified before Congress.

 

And she dazzled them with her scientific knowledge, grounded in her doctoral studies at the University of Geneva, and her dignified appeals to conscience, in many languages. The daughter of parents of Swiss, Italian and Austrian heritage and a convert to Judaism who had joined the Zionist underground, Dr. Krim spoke Italian, German, French and Hebrew as well as English.

 

In 1983, she created the AIDS Medical Foundation to raise money and support AIDS research. It often acted faster than federal agencies, which could take a year to process grants. In 1985, her group and another in Los Angeles merged to form the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR. Elizabeth Taylor was its founding international chairwoman, and Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen and Warren Beatty lent their names.

 

The foundation became the nation’s pre-eminent private supporter of AIDS research, prevention, treatment and advocacy. In 2005, when Dr. Krim stepped down as founding chairwoman, it was renamed the Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, reflecting its international scope. The foundation has raised and invested an estimated $517 million for thousands of programs.

 

Using the foundation as her platform, Dr. Krim promoted needle-exchange programs and the use of condoms and other safe-sex practices; castigated religious leaders who denounced homosexuality as immoral; fought mandatory AIDS testing that might be used to persecute gay people; opposed the use of placebos in experimental drug trials, saying patients might be dead before outcomes were proved; and campaigned for laws to bar discrimination against gay people in housing and employment.

 

Her effectiveness derived partly from her credentials. Besides earning her doctorate in biology, she had served on White House commissions and conducted research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and at the Cornell Medical College and Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

 

But it also arose from a moral perspective that could supersede science. She argued, for example, that heterosexuals and homosexuals were all one big risk group. American epidemiologists did not concur at the time, because so many victims were gay, but she was partly right: Although gay sex now accounts for most transmission in the United States, about 24 percent is through heterosexual sex, and women bear the brunt of that, often through sex with partners who conceal the fact that they are bisexual or injecting drugs..

 

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Dr. Krim, left, with Elizabeth Taylor, amfAR’s founding international chairwoman, and Dr. Silverman

 

She was born Mathilde Galland in Como, Italy, on July 9, 1926, to Eugene Galland, a Swiss-Italian, and the former Elizabeth Krause, an Austrian.

 

At the University of Geneva, Mathilde was a brilliant student of biology and genetics. Appalled by newsreels of Nazi concentration camps in 1945, she sought out Jewish activists, joined the Zionist underground Irgun and spent a summer smuggling guns over the French border for resistance fighters against British rule in Palestine.

 

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1948, she married an Irgun comrade, David Danon, a Bulgarian medical student, and converted to Judaism. The couple had a daughter, Daphna, in 1951, and in 1953, after Mathilde received her doctorate, they emigrated to Israel, where the marriage ended in divorce.

 

In 1954, she joined the research team of the German-born Israeli molecular biologist Leo Sachs at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. She studied cancer-causing viruses and helped write a dozen papers, including one by Dr. Sachs that laid groundwork for the prenatal diagnostic technique of amniocentesis, detecting gender and possible defects in a fetus.

 

She married Mr. Krim, a Weizmann trustee, in 1958, and moved to New York the next year, exchanging pioneer life in a perpetual war zone for the Upper East Side and an illustrious social milieu.

 

Restless for challenges, Dr. Krim resumed research — at Cornell Medical College from 1959 to 1962 and at Sloan Kettering from 1962 to 1985. She thought she glimpsed a cure for cancer in interferons — proteins released by body cells to fight pathogens — but it was not the cure-all she had envisioned. She was later an adjust professor at Columbia University.

 

Dr. Krim is survived by her daughter, Daphna Krim; two grandchildren; and a sister, Maria Jonzier. Arthur Krim died in 1994.

 

Dr. Krim’s many awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Awarded by President Bill Clinton in 2000, it recognized her “extraordinary compassion and commitment.”

Edited by WilliamM
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Peter Staley (HIV/AIDS-LBGT rights activist known for his work with ACT UP and for founding both the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the educational website AIDSmeds) said this:

 

"My greatest AIDS hero died a few hours ago. Dr. Mathilde Krim, founder of amfAR, warrior against homophobia and AIDS-related stigma, dedicated defender of science and public health, and mother-figure and mentor to countless activists, will leave a deep hole in the continued fight against AIDS -- a fight she dedicated her life to."

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HEALTH NEWS FROM NPR

 

PUBLIC HEALTH

Pioneering HIV Researcher Mathilde Krim Remembered For Her Activism

3:50

January 17, 20187:26 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

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PATTI NEIGHMOND

 

Twitter

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Dr. Mathilde Krim at the World AIDS Day Symposium presented by the Foundation For AIDS Research and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in 2002. Krim had a knack for helping people talk about HIV/AIDS rationally, colleagues say.

 

 

With the death of biologist Mathilde Krim on Monday, at the age of 91 at her home in New York, the world lost a pioneering scientist, activist and fundraiser in AIDS research. She is being widely praised this week for her clarity, compassion and leadership.

 

Amid the panic, confusion and discrimination of the HIV epidemic's earliest days, Krim stood out — using science and straight talk, in the 1980s and beyond, to dispel fear, stigma, and misinformation among politicians and the public.

 

"She has likely literally saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives because of what she did during the initial days and years of the epidemic," says Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council. "Every single one of us living with HIV today who are on medicines, where now we can live and thrive — it's because of people like Dr.Mathilde Krim."

 

Born in Italy in 1926, Krim received her doctorate in biology from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She became a steadfast activist for human rights early on, lived in Israel for a time and moved to the United States in the late 50s.

 

Elizabeth Taylor and others. Krim was the founding chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (now called the Foundation for AIDS Research) and went on to raise millions of dollars to finance basic research, clinical trials of drugs and other treatments and AIDS awareness programs.

 

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Mathilde Krim (left), shown here in 1992 with fellow amfAR board members Elizabeth Taylor and Dr. Mervyn F. Silverman, campaigned for needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, and promoted public campaigns that advocated safe sex practices, such as condom use.

 

Denis Doyle/AP

Colleagues say Krim had a knack for helping people talk about HIV/AIDS rationally.

 

"She did it in a very grandmotherly way but also in a very direct and honest way," saysKevin Robert Frost, current CEO of the Foundation for AIDS Research. Krim facilitated much-needed public discussions of sex, drug use and homosexuality, Frost says.

 

"She was able to address all of those things and sweep aside the stigma and discrimination ... in a way that I think very few people could have at the time," he says.

 

While most lawmakers were silent, Frost says, discrimination against people with AIDS was rampant in housing, employment and even medical care. Krim fought for laws to ban such discrimination, campaigned for needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, and promoted public campaigns that advocated safe sex practices, such as condom use.

 

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INTERVIEWS

Though Not A Death Sentence, HIV/AIDS Still Holds A Powerful Stigma

Long-time AIDS activist and author, Peter Staley, who was an early member of the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), an international direct action advocacy group, calls Krim's approach to public health groundbreaking.

 

"She recognized human nature for what it was — with all its faults and beautiful diversity — and she realized that using science and the traditional public health approach was the way to save lives," says Staley. "You throw out the moralizing — the finger wagging — and you save lives. And she did this again and again and again, fighting HIV stigma and homophobia."

 

Krim received 16 honorary doctorates; in 2000 President Bill Clinton presented her with the nation's highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

Frost remembers Krim with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that "a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." Frost says he greatly mourns Krim's passing, but it's also a joy to remember somebody "who could devote themselves so completely to the people around them.

Edited by WilliamM
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  • Arthur B. Krim, 89, Ex-Chief of Movie Studios

By ERIC PACE

Published: September 22, 1994

Arthur B. Krim, an entertainment lawyer and former chairman of Orion Pictures and United Artists, died in his sleep early yesterday at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was 84.

 

He had suffered a long illness, said Barbara Handman, a friend of his family."

 

Arthur B. Krim, an entertainment lawyer and former chairman of Orion Pictures and United Artists, died in his sleep early yesterday at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was 84.

 

He had suffered a long illness, said Barbara Handman, a friend of his family.

 

At his death, he had been counsel since 1978 to the New York-based law firm of Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon, where he went to work in 1932 and was a partner from 1935 to 1978. In his case, being counsel meant that he kept an office at the firm's headquarters and was a permanent adviser there.

 

Known as the producer of more than 1,000 movies, he had the titles of chairman and then founder-chairman of Orion Pictures from 1978 to 1992 and was chairman of United Artists from 1951 to 1978.

 

The senior partner in Mr. Krim's law firm, Louis Nizer, said yesterday, "Arthur Krim revolutionized the film industry because he had an eye for artistic talent and a head for film financing."

 

Mr. Krim and two associates founded Orion Pictures in 1978, as a joint venture with Warner Brothers, after a much-publicized split with United Artists, where there was friction between them and the Transamerica Corporation, which was then United Artists' parent company.

 

The group went on to produce films like "10," "Arthur" and "Excalibur" and to take over Filmways and to form the Orion Pictures Corporation. By 1992, the company had become burdened with debt and had to sell off assets in order to survive.

 

The company filed for bankruptcy and in talks with a variety of potential buyers, it was announced that Mr. Krim would be released from his contract as founder-chairman. An aide said yesterday that Mr. Krim stopped working for Orion in 1991.

 

It was four decades earlier that Mr. Krim and Robert Benjamin headed a syndicate that took over United Artists, which was founded by Charlie Chaplin and other filmland celebrities but fell on hard times in the late 1940's. The new management made it profitable again in the early 1950's, and United Artists made highly regarded films like "High Noon" in those years.

 

Earlier, United Artists had operated at a competitive disadvantage, compared with other movie companies, because it did not have a studio of its own. But that deficiency became a plus in the 1950's and 1960's because United Artists did not have to pay overhead on a studio in those years, when on-location movie-making became widespread in the film industry.

 

In 1967, United Artists became a unit of Transamerica, a conglomerate, and it had a notable degree of success in the 1970's, when three of its movies in a row won Academy Awards as the best films of their years: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), "Rocky" (1976) and "Annie Hall" (1977). But it encountered substantial problems at the end of that decade when it became overextended backing "Heaven's Gate" (1980).

 

Outside the film world, Mr. Krim was long prominent in Democratic political circles and was a valued fund-raiser and a trusted giver of advice to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter. Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale once called him "a shrewd political strategist and a fiercely loyal adviser and friend."

 

Mr. Krim was especially close to Johnson. Mr. Krim and his wife, Dr. Mathilde Krim, had a room at the White House during the Johnson Administration and were on hand when Johnson announced in 1968 that he would not seek re-election, though the Krims had tried to dissuade him from that decision.

 

From 1966 to 1968, Mr. Krim was the chairman of the Democratic National Finance Committee and for years he was on the boards of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

 

He was a member of Columbia University's board of trustees from 1967 to 1982 and that board's chairman from from 1977 to 1982. He was also active on behalf of a variety of causes, including civil rights, equal rights for gay Americans, efforts against AIDS and opposition to the old system of racial separation in South Africa. He became close to Nelson Mandela, now South Africa's President, and other prominent South African opponents of racial separation.

 

A native New Yorker, he was the son of Morris Krim, an immigrant from Russia who started out in New York with a fruit and vegetable stand on the Lower East Side, and the former Rose Ocko. Arthur Krim earned a bachelor's degree in 1930 from Columbia College and then a degree from Columbia's law school, where he was editor in chief of the Columbia Law Review.

 

In the 1930's, he prospered as an entertainment lawyer, with clients like the playwright Clifford Odets and the actor John Garfield.

 

He served in the Army in World War II, rising to lieutenant colonel. Then he became president of Eagle Lion Films, in New York, from 1946 to 1949.

 

At his death, he was on the boards of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation and of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science and was a life trustee of the African-American Institute.

 

The honors and awards he received included Columbia's Alexander Hamilton Medal and medals from France and Italy.

 

In addition to his wife of 35 years, Mr. Krim is survived by a daughter, Daphna, of Washington, and two grandchildren.

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