Stephen Crohn, Who Furthered AIDS Study, Dies at 66

Published: September 14, 2013

 His boyfriend was dying of a disease without a name. 

 
Beginning in 1978, Stephen Crohn cared for Jerry Green, a handsome gymnast, as he lost 30 pounds, went blind and was ravaged by the kinds of infections that rarely harmed otherwise healthy people. 
 
Mr. Green was one of the first people to die of the disease that became known as AIDS. In the ensuing years, scores of Mr. Crohn’s friends died of it. He had taken no special precautions, and he had been as sexually active as his friends. 
 
But he never got sick. 
 
Mr. Crohn’s resistance helped lead to a deeper understanding of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, simply by staying alive and working with doctors to help figure out why he was. 
 
“What he contributed to medical knowledge is really quite extraordinary,” said Dr. Bruce D. Walker, the director of the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, M.I.T. and Harvard. 
 
Mr. Crohn died on Aug. 23 in New York City at 66. The cause was suicide, his sister Amy Crohn Santagata said on Friday in confirming the death, which was not announced at the time. 
 
Mr. Crohn’s immune system and its quirks earned him unsought renown. In 1996, the British newspaper The Independent called him “The Man Who Can’t Catch AIDS,” and he told his story in documentary films and newspaper interviews around the world. 
 
Mr. Crohn had first come to the attention of Dr. Bill Paxton, then a scientist at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York. Dr. Paxton had been looking for gay men who seemed resistant to infection. Working with Dr. David Ho, now the chief executive of the Diamond Center, Dr. Paxton exposed Mr. Crohn’s cells, and those of another promising volunteer, to H.I.V. 
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