Mathilde Krim, Ph.D. was one of the first scientists to realize the significance of the AIDS epidemic that began in the early 1980s. In 1983 she founded the first private organization devoted to researching AIDS, the AIDS Medical Foundation.
Born a non-Jew in Italy in 1926, Dr. Krim eventually converted to Judaism and was a member of Menachem Begin’s Israeli resistance movement, Irgun, before the 1948 war. She then earned her Ph.D from the University of Geneva, Switzerland in 1953, and returned to Israel to conduct cytogenetic and cancer research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel until 1959.While there, she worked as part of the team that developed the first method for prenatal sex determination.
Dr. Krim moved to New York and joined the staff of Cornell University Medical School, and in 1962 she became a research scientist at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, where she was later director of the interferon laboratory. Though still working at Sloan-Kettering at the time, in 1981 Dr. Krim became concerned with raising the public’s awareness of AIDS and researching its cause and modes of transmission. The organization she founded in 1983 later merged with a similar California organization to become the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). This trailblazing organization became the most important bastion for AIDS research, prevention, and public policy in the country. She served as chairman of amfAR from 1990 – 2004.
Dr. Krim currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Public Health and Management at Columbia University. In 2000 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, and in 2003 she received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. Her late husband, Arthur Krim, was finance chairman for the U.S. Democratic Party and an adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson.