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COVID Claims HIV Doctor David Katzenstein, Who Saved Innumerable Lives

Courtesy TeachAids

Katzenstein was one of the first American doctors to focus his efforts on saving HIV-positive Africans.

The HIV community is mourning Dr. David Katzenstein, a doctor who pioneered testing, treatment, and prevention methods, especially for vulnerable people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Katzenstein, 69, died in late January from COVID-19 in his adopted home of Zimbabwe, The New York Times reports. Katzenstein spent a large portion of his career assisting people living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe and other nations of sub-Saharan Africa. Katzenstein's devotion to marginalized populations was first fostered in New Mexico, where during an internship he worked at tackling infectious diseases among the local Native American population.

While studying and conducting his medical residency at the University of California, San Diego, Katzenstein established a relationship with the medical microbiology department at the University of Zimbabwe’s medical school. Eventually, Katzenstein became “one of the first U.S.-based H.I.V. researchers to commit to working in this region of the world,” according to the International Antiviral Society-USA.

Katzenstein relocated to Zimbabwe from 1985-87 to work as a microbiologist at the University of Zimbabwe. In the late '80s, Katzenstein worked for the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. The doctor then headed to California's Stanford University, where he worked as a clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases, eventually being named associate medical director of Stanford’s AIDS Clinical Trial Unit. Utilizing clinical trials, the unit helped pave the way for antiretroviral drugs that would eventually change the course of HIV and make it the manageable disease it remains today.

Katzenstein's work also focused on resistance issues to antiretroviral meds, specifically looking at the effects of resistance on people living with HIV in Zimbabwe. Upon moving to the African nation, Katzenstein directed the Biomedical Research and Training Institute in the capital city of Harare. He continued to publish research studies until his last days.  

“Imbued with a passionate belief in social justice, David Katzenstein had an outsized impact on the fight against H.I.V. in sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford University medical school, said in a statement.

Katzenstein is survived by a stepdaughter, three siblings, two stepgrandsons, and a step-great-granddaughter.

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