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

He honed methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and made them accessible to underserved populations in sub-Sahara Africa. He died of Covid-19.

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.

Dr. Katzenstein, who was professor emeritus of infectious diseases and global health at Stanford Medicine in California, died on Jan. 25 in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he had moved after retiring in 2016. He was 69. The cause was Covid-19, his stepdaughter, Melissa Sanders-Self, said.

“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,

David Allenberg Katzenstein was born on Jan. 3, 1952, in Hartford, Conn., to Henry Katzenstein, a physicist, and Constance (Allenberg) Katzenstein, a clinical psychologist.

He graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1973 and received a medical degree there in 1977.

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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