Mathilde Krim: doyenne of AIDS research funding in the US

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 26 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k403
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. Washington, DC
  1. bobroehr{at}
Credit: Annie Leibovitz

In the beginning, there was Mathilde Krim. Amid the darkness, despair, and scientific ignorance of AIDS, when rumour, panic, and victimisation flourished, she was a beacon of reason, compassion, and action. She was able to unite the communities of science, finance, Hollywood celebrity, and the stigmatised gay community that bore the brunt of the epidemic in its early days. Her principal vehicle was the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

Early life and career

Krim’s early life was the stuff of a Hollywood screenplay. Born Mathilde Galland in Como, Italy, to Swiss and Austrian parents in 1926, she grew up primarily in Geneva, isolated from the worst of the second world war. But she did see Jewish refugees and heard the distain for their requests for asylum, and later she was shocked by newsreel footage of the liberation of extermination camps.

She converted to Judaism while a student at the University of Geneva, where she gained a PhD in biology at a time when few women did. She started smuggling guns to the Irgun, a Jewish paramilitary group fighting to create an independent Israel. Galland married David Danon in 1948, and the couple moved to Israel in 1953, but they divorced not …

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