As 2019 draws to a close, TheBodyPro takes stock of the year's most noteworthy developments in HIV. And not just any developments: We're looking specifically at those with the largest impact for people who provide HIV care and services in the U.S. In this series, veteran clinician-researcher David Alain Wohl, M.D., guides us through the new research and other important moments of 2019 that have the greatest potential to alter the HIV clinical landscape in the months and years to come.
In 2019, HIV clinician, HIV clinical scientist, and human rights advocate Charles van der Horst, M.D., died. He was 67. He lost his life on the last leg of a grueling multi-day swim race in New York's Hudson River, which he was doing because being an HIV clinician, HIV clinical scientist, and human rights advocate was not enough, so he was also a master competitive swimmer.
Although you may not have known -- or even heard of -- Charlie, his DNA is woven into the cloth of HIV care and research. He was among the founding fathers and mothers of the U.S. AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), and his vision and credo shaped this premier research collaboration. His work on cryptococcal meningitis treatment and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission established standards of care, and he trained, guided, and enabled a worldwide legion of would-be leaders in academia, front-line clinical care, public health, and industry.
This was not a quiet or meek man. When North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber II launched the Moral Monday protests at the state legislature to counter harmful policies such as those that threaten voting rights, prevent access to medical care, weaken protection from industrial pollutants, and perpetuate mass incarceration, Charlie was there at his side in his long white coat. Others followed his lead, until there was a sea of white coats demanding justice alongside students, grandmothers, and many others.
Much of what has been written about Charlie since his death reads like the above, his passions painted in broad strokes to provide an outline of this complex and large-living man. For the fine details, each of us who knew him can easily fill in with their own stories, which are colorful and often profound. My life was not just brightened and enriched by Charlie -- my mentor, then my colleague, and then my friend. But, like so many others, I am who I am because he was who he was: indelible.