amfAR25: Making AIDS History
Alarmed at the growing number of cases of a mysterious and deadly disease that was spreading among young gay men in New York City, Dr. Mathilde Krim and a small group of physicians and scientists shared a profound concern about the potential for a devastating epidemic. To galvanize the research effort that was so urgently needed, in April 1983 they formed the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), which awarded its first research grants the following year.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Elizabeth Taylor was also moved to act. With the government apparently unable or unwilling to respond to the helpless suffering she was seeing all around her, she and Dr. Michael Gottlieb founded the National AIDS Research Foundation in 1985.
Since they shared the same basic goals, it soon became clear that a union of these two organizations was in the best interests of the research effort. The result was a truly national organization—the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, with offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Dr. Krim and Dr. Gottlieb became its co-chairmen and Elizabeth Taylor, its national chairman.
amfAR’s first full year of operation was 1986—25 years ago. That year, the new Foundation awarded its first round of research grants. By the end of that same year, AIDS had claimed the lives of 25,000 Americans.
Twenty-five years on, amfAR’s research strategy remains unchanged: identifying gaps in scientific knowledge of HIV/AIDS and supporting promising studies that often lack the preliminary data that other funders require. By nurturing early-stage—and often high-risk—research, amfAR is able to parlay modest investments into breakthrough advances.
These advances have led to the development of four of the six main drug classes that are helping people with HIV/AIDS stay alive, and to treatments that prevent mothers from passing HIV on to their children. Together, these and other amfAR achievements have saved and extended countless lives.
amfAR’s founders realized from the outset that influencing public policy was no less important than funding basic science. Both Dr. Krim and Elizabeth Taylor testified before Congress on the need for increased investments in AIDS research and the need to protect the human rights of people living with HIV or at risk of infection.
Since its founding, amfAR has invested nearly $325 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide. We pay tribute to Dr. Mathilde Krim and Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who fought fear and prejudice with reason, compassion, and leadership, blazing a trail that will end one day in the conquest of AIDS.