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A Tribute to Jerry Rabinowitz

A patient of the doctor slain in the Pittsburgh massacre remembers his compassion in the face of HIV

Michael Kerr
October 29, 2018
Michael Kerr, Facebook
Jerry RabinowitzMichael Kerr, Facebook
Michael Kerr, Facebook
Jerry RabinowitzMichael Kerr, Facebook

My doctor Jerry Rabinowitz was among those killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. He took care of me up until I left Pittsburgh for New York City in 2004.

In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh, he was the one to go to. Basically before there was effective treatment for fighting HIV itself, he was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always always hugged us as we left his office.

We made a deal about my T-cells, in that I didn’t want to know the numbers visit to visit, because I knew I would fret with every little fluctuation and I also knew that AZT was not working for my friends. The deal was that he would just let me know at some point when the T-cell numbers meant I needed to start on medications. The numbers were his job and my job was to finish my masters thesis and get a job with insurance and try to not go crazy.

I got lucky beyond words—because when he gently told me around November 1995 that it was time to begin taking medications—there was an ACTG trial for two HIV medications that saved my life. One of which I still take today.

Thank you ACT UP for getting these drugs into a safe but effective expedited research protocol. You saved my life.

And thank you, Dr. Rabinowitiz, for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes just like the early ACT UP warriors—some of whom I now call friends.


This text originally appeared on Michael Kerr’s Facebook and Instagram, and is reprinted here with permission of the author. For more Tablet coverage of the Pittsburgh shooting, click here.

Michael Kerr is a longterm survivor of HIV and AIDS, and a volunteer activist with ACT UP New York.