amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole Honored at AIDS Research Conference

Published Thursday, February 23, 2016

Kenneth Cole was among the honorees at the opening session of the annual AIDS research conference in Boston, February 22.

In recognition of his 30 years of leadership in the fight against AIDS, amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole was honored with the first ever Special Recognition Award at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston, February 22.

“Social responsibility and caring for others is an inherent trait of Ken’s,” said Dr. Scott Hammer of the CROI Program Committee in presenting the award. “Ken has mobilized the artistic, creative and general communities to fight stigma and to raise many millions of dollars to support research.”

In his 30-minute acceptance speech at the opening session of the largest annual HIV science meeting in the United States, Cole spoke about his decision to become an HIV advocate in the 1980s.

"The silence was deafening,” he said. “Stigma had arguably become more lethal than the virus itself, and to some degree, I'd make the case, it still is.”  

Cole declared his first major advertising HIV campaign in 1996 to have been “personally defining and transformative.” “It had changed me -- the man, the brand, as well as the business, none of which would ever be the same again. I had journeyed down a road with no sense of where it would take me, but I can tell you that what we were doing suddenly seemed important and relevant."

He also discussed amfAR’s commitment to “creative research” and “insightful advocacy for research.” “I came to believe early on that science can’t exist in a vacuum, especially science that challenges prevailing wisdom,” he said.

Also honored at the opening session were two highly respected veterans of AIDS research and public health, Dr. Bruce Walker of Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, and Dr. Gerald Friedland of Yale School of Medicine.

To view the award presentation, click here.