This past week was the 9th Annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week. The National Coalition for LGBT Health highlighted their purpose of bringing “attention to the devastating cycle of discrimination and health disparities that affects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Because LGBT people are regularly discriminated against in employment, relationship recognition and insurance coverage, they are most likely to get sick and less likely to afford vital health care than their straight and non-transgender neighbors.”
The National Coalition for LGBT Health’s theme this past week was “Come Out For Health.” The theme was created to encourage people in the LGBT community, policy makers and health care professionals to work together to remove all health disparities negatively impacting LGBT people and to provide better health and well-being for all LGBT people and their families.
Dr. Mathilde Krim
In honor of National LGBT Health Awareness Week, I wanted to highlight Dr. Mathilde Krim and her amazing work as an activist and scientist who helped remove the stigma of AIDS. Krim was born in Italy in 1926 and in the 1950’s she moved to the United States working as a virologist and geneticist in leukemia research.
In the 1980’s the term “gay plague” referring to a newer disease at the time bothered her deeply. It made Krim cringe when some of her heterosexual friends would talk about gay people with this disease in very dehumanizing tones. Krim noticed parallels of how people used to talk about the Jews as dirty or evil or that they deserved to die. She did not share her friend’s prejudice and decided to use her credentials to work in the lab to help people with what we now know as AIDS and HIV.
During this time she used her network of celebrities, her husband (entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim) and national leaders to support her in her research of AIDS. She became co-founder of AIDS Medication Foundation in 1983 and spear-headed legislative leaders to fund AIDS research along with endorsing safe-sex practices and needle exchange programs.
Krim gathered celebrities like Woody Allen, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Streisand to help her cause by hosting a Gala for AIDS research fundraiser. In 2000, Krim was honored by President Clinton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award.
The HIV-positive head of the New York City Counsel, Corey Johnson honored Krim recently by saying, “She has likely literally saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives because of what she did during the initial days and years of the epidemic.”
This past January, Dr. Krim passed away. We are grateful for her dedicated life in serving the LGBT community.
I hope we as allies can all use our professional circles of influence by bringing awareness to our straight neighbors so that our neighbors of the LGBT community have healthier and happier lives.
Ally Tip of the Day
Understand that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual are experts on their own experience and that you have much to learn from them.
About the Author
Sarah Bridges is a board member of FHHRP and an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. Sarah has a degree in Health Science with an emphasis in Public Health. She is originally from Arizona but calls Manhattan, Kansas her home. In her spare time she enjoys hosting book clubs with her partner, hiking, yoga or painting with her strong little girl.