A doctor who was one of the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was honoured for his efforts in helping patients during the AIDS crisis.

Eight men and three women were shot dead at the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill on Saturday (October 27) during the worst antisemitic attack in modern US history, including Dr Jerry Rabinowitz, who practised family medicine a short drive from the synagogue.



One of Rabinowitz’s patients, Michael Kerr, has paid tribute to the doctor for his kind treatment of people with HIV during a time in which tens of thousands died and many were scared to touch sufferers, let alone care for them.

People hug after a vigil, to remember the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue the day before, at the Allegheny County Soldiers Memorial on October 28, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. - A man suspected of bursting into a Pittsburgh synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony and gunning down 11 people has been charged with murder, in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history. The suspect -- identified as a 46-year-old Robert Bowers -- reportedly yelled "All Jews must die" as he sprayed bullets into the Tree of Life synagogue during Sabbath services on Saturday before exchanging fire with police, in an attack that also wounded six people. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People hug at a vigil to the shooting victims (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty)

Kerr said that “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.”

Kerr said the doctor “always, always hugged us as we left his office” (michael kerr/facebook)

Kerr recounted how he and the doctor “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 Master’s thesis and get a job with insurance and try to not go crazy.”

“The numbers were his job and my job was to finish my Master’s thesis and get a job with insurance and try to not go crazy” (michael kerr/facebook)

Kerr, who left Pittsburgh for New York City in 2004 and now volunteers for the local branch of anti-HIV campaign group ACT UP, said he “got lucky beyond words.”

He explained that when Rabinowitz “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.”

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Kerr added: “Thank you Dr Rabinowitz for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life.

The names of the victims are displayed at a memorial on October 28, 2018 outside the Tree of Life synagogue after a shooting there left 11 people dead in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on October 27. - A man suspected of bursting into a Pittsburgh synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony and gunning down 11 people has been charged with murder, in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history. The suspect -- identified as a 46-year-old Robert Bowers -- reportedly yelled "All Jews must die" as he sprayed bullets into the Tree of Life synagogue during Sabbath services on Saturday before exchanging fire with police, in an attack that also wounded six people. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rabinowitz’s name can be seen in this photo of memorials (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty)

“You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes just like the early ACT UP warriors — some of which I now call friend.”

In a second emotional message, Kerr addressed Rabinowitz directly, writing: “I never got to tell you personally I made it through this HIV mess — but I know you’d be proud.

Above a photo of himself campaigning for ACT UP in Times Square, Kerr said: “This would be the perfect picture I’d send to you to say thank you and look at me now.”

“This would be the perfect picture I’d send to you to say thank you and look at me now” (michael kerr/facebook)

He added that the other photo included in his post, a picture of Rabinowitz, “captures your joyous and heartfelt smile that helped so many people.”

HIV ravaged the queer community during the AIDS crisis, as countless media outlets and politicians stayed silent over what was seen as a “gay disease.” One chilling recording featured President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary laughing after being asked about gay people’s deaths.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 28: People listen to interfaith speakers at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall during a service to honor and mourn the victims of Saturday's mass shooting at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed and six more were wounded in the mass shooting that police say was fueled by antisemitism. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
The shooting rocked Pittsburgh, and especially the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill (Jeff Swensen/Getty)

ACT UP New York posted Kerr’s original message on its Facebook page, adding that the organisation “has thousands of veterans spread across the country, and the NY chapter still attracts members and visitors from all over the world.

“So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that there is an ACT UP connection to yesterday’s antisemitic massacre in Pittsburgh in that one of the victims was a beloved HIV doctor there in the 90s who treated many people with HIV including a current ACT UP NY member.” The group added the hashtags #RIP and #AIDSHero.

The man suspected of carrying out the Pittsburgh attack, Robert Bowers, 46, has been arrested and faces 29 criminal counts, including two hate crime charges.




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