Obituary: Mathilde Krim, AIDS research pioneer and FIGHT founder, 91

Dr. Mathilde Krim, founder of American Foundation for AIDS Research and Philadelphia FIGHT, died Jan. 15 at age 91. 

Krim, who was born in Italy, spearheaded AIDS research and piloted fundraising efforts. She founded the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, which was the first private organization solely dedicated to AIDS research. 

Prior to the conception of the foundation, she conducted research at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic first struck. Krim then turned her drive to AIDS research after seeing so many young men die. AIDS Medical Foundation then became the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985.

The research and work of Krim led to the founding of Philadelphia FIGHT

“She was really willing to help out. She went above and beyond. She stood up when almost nobody else did. She jumpstarted research,” said Jane Shull, Executive Director of Philadelphia FIGHT.

In addition to continuing research, FIGHT provides HIV primary care to low-income members of the community.

FIGHT also provides consumer education, social services and outreach to people who currently live with HIV. Krim brought the first grant funding to FIGHT in 1990.

“We have all been enriched by Dr. Krim’s time on this earth,” said Shull. “Let us honor her memory today and every day by remaining committed to the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic within the lifetime of those affected now.”

Shull reflected on the work and drive of Krim and her ability to network and push for funding. Krim attended countless meetings. Because of amfAR, national meetings were sponsored in which physicians and AIDS activists joined together.

“She was really on the front lines herself. She was very considerate,” Shull added.

Krim spent endless hours devoted to raising awareness and working to smash the stigma attached to AIDS. 

After achieving a Ph.D. from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, Krim went on to conduct research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Krim was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

Elton John, who founded Elton John AIDS Foundation, called Krim a true hero.

“Dr. Krim was a close friend and mentor, and I am deeply saddened by this news. She dedicated her life to understanding the science behind the epidemic, and was a force to mobilize research around the globe that helped to save millions of lives and reduce the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS,” John said in a statement.

“The legacy of Dr. Krim’s deep commitment to ending HIV/AIDS will live on in the advocacy and compassion of those that follow her lead. We would not be where we are today without her and we must continue to work tirelessly to further understand and prevent the disease.”

Krim was married to Arthur B. Krim. She died in her home in New York City. The cause of death was not made available to the public.