Laying the Foundation for AIDS Research

April 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of amfAR’s pioneering predecessor, the AIDS Medical Foundation

Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1983
Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1983, the year she co-founded the AIDS Medical Foundation

In 1981, when cases of what would become known as AIDS were first reported, Dr. Mathilde Krim realized that the outbreak had the potential to become an epidemic. She quickly saw that public awareness needed to be heightened and the scientific community needed to direct its energies toward research. As a researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she pivoted her own work on interferons to investigate this new virus and its possible treatment.

Then, in April 1983, partly in response to government inaction, Dr. Krim and a small group of like-minded activists founded the nonprofit AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), the first private organization in the world dedicated to raising funds to support scientific and medical research on AIDS. Based in New York City, the group included Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, a physician focused on gay men’s health, and singer and AIDS activist Michael Callen.

In a June 24, 1983, New York Times interview, Dr. Krim described AMF’s laser-focused mission: “Our intention is to see that the maximum proportion of contributions received will go directly to research. Overhead and staff expense will be kept at a minimum.’”

(left to right) Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, Dr. Mathilde Krim, and Harley Hackett
Soon after amfAR’s founding, three of the key figures behind its predecessor, the AIDS Medical Foundation, attend a reception:(left to right) Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, Dr. Mathilde Krim, and Harley Hackett, who was also a founding amfAR board member.

AMF’s first grants were awarded in 1984. The grant-making expanded when, in September 1985, AMF joined forces with Elizabeth Taylor’s National AIDS Research Foundation, which had been incorporated in California in August 1985, to become amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (formerly, the American Foundation for AIDS Research).

“Though Dr. Krim, amfAR’s founding chairman, died in 2018, her legacy lives on,” noted Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR Chief Executive Officer. “Following in the footsteps of the AIDS Medical Foundation, amfAR remains committed to funding innovative research that will one day cure HIV, and fighting for the rights and needs of all people living with and at risk for this deadly virus.”

Share This: