Steven Crohn, NYU Silver Alumnus, Dies at 66

Crohn Furthered Aids Study by Offering Himself as a Research Subject
Photo by Nancy Siesel/The New York Times
Photo by Nancy Siesel/The New York Times

Stephen Crohn, who died on August 23, was an MSW social worker in NYC, an artist, and a freelance editor for Fodor’s Travel. His paintings, mostly abstract works inspired by landscapes, were exhibited in New York and elsewhere in the United States. His obituary described him as having touched many lives with “his abounding love for humanity.” But he became famous as a gay man who was immune to AIDS and for offering himself as a subject in research that led to development of a drug that arrests the spread of HIV in people with the virus.

In the late 1970s, when the disease started to ravage the gay community, Crohn, who had been as active in unprotected sex as his dying friends, didn’t get sick. At the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, where Crohn presented himself to help with research, doctors found out why: Crohn’s CD4 cells contained a genetic defect, a mutation that prevented HIV from penetrating these cells to start the disease. Ultimately, research based on Crohn’s immune system led to a drug that halts the spread of the virus, and to a cure via bone marrow transplant from a matching donor who also carried the mutation.

To read Stephen's obituary in the New York Times, visit