In memoriam: Dr. Mathilde Krim, amfAR’s Founding Chairman, and Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Founding International Chairman
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $550 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.
When the condition that would come to be known as AIDS was first observed among a few gay men in New York City, it caused immediate concern among a group of physicians and scientists that included Mathilde Krim, Ph.D., then a researcher at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. An informal study group was formed to explore the underlying cause of the diverse, severe, and apparently unrelated symptoms these early patients exhibited. This cause was quickly identified as a profound acquired immune deficiency, probably of infectious origin.
As cases of AIDS were soon reported among heterosexual hemophiliacs, injecting drug users, and blood transfusion recipients of both genders and all ages, Dr. Krim and her colleagues perceived the threat of a general epidemic. They demanded an early and vigorous research effort, as well as a concerted public information campaign. Unfortunately, the initial emergence of the new disease among gay men and the pervasive homophobia within American society attached an enormous stigma to HIV/AIDS. The result was a dearth of voices that would speak out on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS or in support of federal funds for AIDS research and prevention.
In April 1983, Dr. Krim and a small group of associates including Dr. Joseph Sonnabend founded the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF) in New York to help fill this gap and raise private funds to support scientific and medical research on AIDS. Its first research grants were awarded in 1984, and AMF also became active in disseminating accurate information to legislators and to an uninformed, sometimes frightened, and often bigoted public.
In September 1985, the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) was formed through the unification of AMF with the like-minded National AIDS Research Foundation, which had been incorporated in California in August 1985. To reflect the increasingly international scope of its programs, in 2005 amfAR became simply The Foundation for AIDS Research.