By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D.
My first column in WestView News appeared a year ago. How has my column added to the general discussion? What has been the response from readers? Have people found it valuable? How much funding did my column help raise for the charitable cause I set out to support? I invite any interested readers to share their thoughts. Here is my own report card.
Each month WestView News’ articles speak to the concerns on the top of readers’ minds. The paper’s regular contributors also offer timely articles in their areas of expertise. The newspaper’s neighborhood of Manhattan’s West Village was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic where many residents continue to suffer its impact. As a gay man, biotech inventor and AIDS cure researcher, my column aims to share news and hope of a cure for AIDS.
By way of background, my organization was first included in the pages of WestView News during its coverage of the Gay Pride March last year. Shortly after, I asked George Capsis, the paper’s publisher, if he might publish my views on a controversial topic relating to HIV/AIDS. This would be a difficult article for me to write and for George to publish because it went against the grain. Nonetheless, WestView published my article in September 2019 after having presented a formal introduction to my organization in August.
How many reader comments did we get? How many letters to the editor? How many donations? What was the total amount of donations? 0, 0, 0 and 0. Given these results, why not throw in the towel?
First, based on my interactions with people who are newly diagnosed as HIV positive, I know that their hope is to not live forever with HIV/AIDS but to get rid of it, the same dream many long-term survivors had before it was beaten out of them. And when anyone googles a cure, they will find some of the hope and information they seek in this column and in the mission of my organization, Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA). This includes news of the donation of promising biotechnology in the field of curing AIDS to RFTCA, and the first statements in support of a cure from major U.S. presidential candidates.
Second, in addition to being a newspaper, WestView News is a community organization. Readers reach out to George with problems and he responds with solutions. Although I did not ask George for help, that did not stop him from offering it. He wrote to the CEO of Northwell Health about his idea that our efforts to develop a cure should be housed at the former site of the AIDS ward of St. Vincent’s Hospital, which once served as the center for compassionate care of NYC’s AIDS victims and which Northwell now occupies. This has resulted in ongoing discussions which we hope may lead to a physical presence with high symbolic value that could help catalyze further development.
Finally, I believe that one day, somehow, this column will reach those who are motivated and eager to add their part in making a cure a reality for all those in need. This is based on my own personal worldview. I constantly find myself thinking about how I could make the greatest impact for good on this planet. In my case, my most valuable asset is the biotechnology that I had a role in developing and which I have freely given to RFTCA. I believe that there are many others who share the same worldview, and among them are some who may wish to direct their energy and giving toward enabling a cure. All we need is one person who will fund the team and its work, and I believe he or she may come across my message in a bottle one day. If we can reach that one person, I will be in the lab within a week, and I know exactly what to do to take the next major steps.
Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D. is a biologist, a biotech inventor, co-founder of Chromocell Corporation, a gay man, and president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow RFTCA on Instagram @RFTcureaids.