Health Sciences Library Acquires the Papers of AIDS Activist Mathilde Krim

photo of Mathilde Krim by Annie Leibovitz

The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center is pleased to announce the acquisition of the papers of Dr. Mathilde Krim (1926-2018), biomedical scientist, pioneer AIDS activist, and philanthropist.  Krim had a long connection with Columbia: she was on the faculty of the University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Mailman’s Dr. Mathilde Krim-amfAR professorship of global health is named in her honor.

Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health, remarked that “Dr. Krim was a treasured member of our Board of Overseers and a visionary leader who really propelled research on HIV prevention and treatment. She was a beneficent friend of all those affected, creating resources to financially support the equity of access to care and treatment. We are honored to receive her papers and continue her legacy.”

At the outset of the AIDS epidemic Krim recognized the urgent need to meet its devastating medical and social effects.  In 1983, she founded the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), the first private organization to support AIDS research.  Two years later AMF and the National AIDS Research Foundation merged to become the American Foundation for AIDS Research, popularly known as amfAR (it is now known as amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research).  It soon became the country’s leading non-profit organization devoted to supporting AIDS research, prevention, and scientifically sound public health policy. Besides being amfAR’s founding chair, Krim served as its Board chairman from 1990 to 2004.  In these roles she became one of the country’s most visible advocates for the need to adequately fund AIDS research as well as an outspoken champion of the human rights and dignity of persons with AIDS.

Although she is primarily known for her role in fighting AIDS, Krim had an illustrious scientific career both in Israel and the United States.  She received her doctorate in biology from the University of Geneva in 1953 and for many years was on the faculty of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she was involved in the development of interferon as a potential cancer treatment.  Krim’s scientific training and thorough familiarity with the needs of biomedical research made her a persuasive proponent for greater AIDS funding.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, the Dr. Mathilde Krim-amfAR professor of global health at the Mailman School, noted that “from day one, for those of us involved in confronting the HIV epidemic or were affected by it, Dr. Krim was a consistent source of inspiration. She stood strong against those who peddled fear and ignorance… Dr. Krim’s papers serve as a lasting legacy of a remarkable woman who so eloquently and effectively linked science, humanity, advocacy and action.”

The Krim papers are about 70 cubic feet in extent and date from the late 1960s to the early 21st century.  They document Mathilde Krim’s professional life, largely her work with interferon at MSKCC and her role in amfAR.  Included are correspondence, minutes, reports, reprints of scientific articles, laboratory notebooks, scrapbooks, photographs, and audiotapes.  The papers will be open for research in the Health Sciences Library’s Archives & Special Collections after they have been organized and cataloged, in one to two years.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz