David Katzenstein, AIDS Researcher With Focus on Africa, Dies at 69

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Dr. David Katzenstein may have been a dreamer, “with sometimes brilliant and sometimes slightly off-the-wall ideas,” one colleague said recently. But from the beginning, in a biosphere spawning new undetected and unconstrained killers, he was no ivory-tower researcher regarding the world through a microscope.

After medical school, he interned at the University of New Mexico, where his work with Indigenous peoples developed into an abiding commitment to help underserved populations prevent and deal with infectious diseases.

For 35 years, as a virologist and clinician, he not only helped advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of H.I.V. and AIDS; he also made those techniques available to middle- and low-income patients in sub-Saharan Africa.

He married Sharon Mayes, who died in 2007. In addition to his stepdaughter, he is survived by his sisters, Ruth Souza and Amy Harrington; his brother, Rob Katzenstein; two step-grandsons; and a step-great-granddaughter.

After his residency in San Diego, Dr. Katzenstein taught at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Minnesota until 1986.

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

From 1987 to 1989, Dr. Katzenstein worked as a senior research fellow at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

In 1989, he joined the Stanford faculty as a clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases and was named the associate medical director of Stanford’s AIDS Clinical Trial Unit, which conducted research, including clinical trials, into antiretroviral drugs that extended the lives of people with H.I.V.

He focused on the challenges posed by resistance to antiviral H.I.V. drugs and was among the first researchers to publicize the problem in Africa.

In Zimbabwe, he directed the Biomedical Research and Training Institute in Harare, where he trained clinical researchers, introduced modern diagnostic and monitoring techniques to community health programs and continued to publish research studies until his death.

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