Mathilde Krim, longtime chairman and founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or AMFAR, died Monday at her home in Kings Point, New York.
A native of Como, Italy, Krim — nee Gailland — picked up a Ph.D. at the University of Geneva in 1953 and began research into cancer-causing viruses at the Weizman Institute of Science in Israel. After marrying the lawyer Arthur Krim, the couple located in New York where Krim began work in research at Cornell University. Following her stint at Cornell, Krim moved to Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.
As the AiDS virus attracted medical attention in 1981, Krim was one of the first to sound the alarm that the disease might cause a global pandemic. She turned her work toward AIDS research, and in 1983, she founded the AIDS Medical Foundation, then the first private enterprise to tackle research into the cause of HIV/AIDS. The organization would merge two years later with a similar group in California to form what is now amfAR. Krim served as chairman of the combined organization from 1990 to her retirement in 2004.
Krim attracted widespread celebrity support, most notably Elizabeth Taylor, and created an annual GALA at the Cannes Film Festival which has to date raised more than 220 million dollars for amFAR and its work. Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Krim is survived by her daughter, two grandchildren, and her sister.