By Kambiz Shekdar
Thirty-forty years ago, thousands of gay men were abandoned and left to die of AIDS in New York City’s St. Vincent’s Hospital. On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) announced plans to build its AIDS cure incubator at the former site of the St. Vincent’s AIDS ward.
The idea of incubating a global cure for AIDS in the former AIDS ward of St. Vincent’s originated with George Capsis, publisher of WestView News. As a longtime West Village resident and the neighborhood’s “Chief,” George is a champion for any bereft and bewildered residents, as well as for any merchants and their needs.
When St. Vincent’s shuttered its doors, closing the only hospital in the West Village, the Chief found himself to have become a bereft and bewildered resident also. As reported by DNAinfo, August 19, 2013:
“My wife died two days ago. She was at a hospital in the Bronx. I had to travel an hour and a half to get to see her,” Capsis explained, saying his wife, Andromache Capsis, died of lung cancer at the age of 87. “If this hospital [still] had existed, I could have walked two blocks and spent time with her in the last hours of her life.”
I met George during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall police riots at the NYC World Pride parade. Dusty Berke, president of Tiles for America, the 9/11 Memorial in the West Village, invited George to join us as we united our communities to launch our FREE FROM AIDS campaign from the site on the parade route across the street from the AIDS Memorial.
My organization celebrated 50 years of LGBT progress by setting out to eradicate AIDS from the earth and to eliminate HIV/AIDS-related suffering for the next 50 years and beyond. The very next day, working around the clock, WestView News published our awareness campaign, which was the first-ever public service announcement for curing AIDS.
I explained to George that it is no longer the science that is limiting a cure for AIDS, but a failure of leadership and a lack of imagination. We discussed how hundreds of millions in payments from the pharmaceutical manufacturer Gilead Sciences, Inc. to AIDS and LGBT organizations and AIDS activist groups has impeded progress in favor of profit (see this article). George and I agreed that after 30 to 40 years of AIDS, the solutions of the future must replace the solutions of the past.
Demonstrating the value of a true community newspaper in the capital city of the world, these discussions led to the creation of this monthly column, which will focus on a cure when there is so much media attention and money behind existing treatment and prevention options only.
It was George who pointed out to me that the AIDS ward in St. Vincent’s Hospital was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, and that it would be fitting if this once shelter for the dying could be transformed into the epicenter of the cure. George was right.
Research Foundation to Cure AIDS is the first charitable 501(c)3 biotechnology venture that obtained a license to use cellular technology to research, develop, and commercialize a global cure for AIDS. Thanks to George’s pioneering leadership, RFTCA is now in talks with Michael Dowling (CEO of Northwell Health) and Alexander Hellinger (executive director of Northwell’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village facility, which occupies the site of the former AIDS Ward at St. Vincent’s) regarding implementing an AIDS cure research incubator exactly as the publisher and West Village leader imagined. Adds Erik Bottcher, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s chief of staff, “Speaker Johnson would indeed support such research taking place at the Northwell complex.” This World AIDS Day, December 1st, 2019, Research Foundation to Cure AIDS lit the torch to cure AIDS.
Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D. is a biologist, a biotech inventor, a gay man, and the president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS. Visit FreeFromAIDS.org to help accelerate a cure for AIDS. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org