AIDS pioneer Dr. Joyce Wallace dies at 79

Oct 28, 2020 Travel News

AIDS pioneer Dr. Joyce Wallace dies at 79

Dr. Joyce Wallace, a Manhattan internist who treated prostitutes for AIDS, sometimes brought prostitutes home with her when they had nowhere to go.

Once, when his son, Ari Kahn, was around 12 years old, Dr Wallace, who had to go to the hospital to see his patients, left him at home with a prostitute who was HIV positive and undergoing drug withdrawal. ‘heroin. It was not clear who should take care of whom. Ari ended up making pizza for both of them. Upon her return, Dr. Wallace took the prostitute to a drug rehab center; the woman eventually overcame her addiction and got a job at a research foundation that Dr. Wallace had created.

“On the one hand, it was extremely irresponsible,” Kahn said of the incident in an interview. On the other hand, he said, it was typical of his mother’s extraordinary capacity for empathy, and she helped a lot of people.

Dr. Wallace died on October 14 in a Manhattan hospital. She was 79 years old.

Mr. Kahn said the cause was a heart attack.

Dr. Wallace was not a conventional mother. She was not a conventional doctor either. Among the first to report the deadly disease known as AIDS, she tried to stop its spread among thousands of New York prostitutes.

The belly of the city was his clinic. She drove in a white Dodge van offering tests for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and handing out condoms, in addition to running a needle exchange program and trying to persuade prostitutes to come out. streets and take them to shelters.

“They are our responsibility,” she told The New Yorker in 1993. “They are not disposable women.

A writer for The New Yorker, Barbara Goldsmith, followed her for several months and produced a graphic 17-page account of Dr. Wallace’s encounters with prostitutes, many of whom are homeless and many addicted to drugs. At the time, AIDS was the leading cause of death in the city among women aged 20 to 29.

“Joyce Wallace tends to be seen as an eccentric fanatic who deals with a group of illegal, transient and often despised women,” Ms. Goldsmith wrote.

“As in the early days of the AIDS crisis, when the establishment failed to respond,” she added, “the burden of activism fell not on the most skilled or the most organized, but on those who care ”.

After the New Yorker article appeared, singer and actress Bette Midler purchased the rights to Dr. Wallace’s life story, according to Dr. Wallace’s daughter Julia Query. Ms Midler wanted to make and star in a film about Dr Wallace, Ms Query said, but the film was never made.

Dr Wallace began practicing medicine in the late 1970s in Greenwich Village, where many of his patients were gay men. In the spring of 1981, before AIDS was recognized, she was one of a handful of doctors in New York and San Francisco who said they discovered Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer, among their patients. patients.

On July 3, 1981, she was among the researchers who published one of the first reports linking Kaposi’s sarcoma to immunocompromised gay men. The disease would become a telltale sign of HIV

Dr Wallace was particularly interested in how AIDS affects women. Once a test was developed, she began offering prostitutes $ 20 or a McDonald’s coupon to allow her to draw their blood.

Her studies have found high correlations between HIV and intravenous drug use. She planned to set up a drop-in center on the Lower East Side to provide prostitutes with a hot shower, clean clothes, food and, if drug-free, transitional housing.

“I want to give girls a place where they can start to make a new life,” she told the New York Times in 1991 as she remodeled an old brothel for this purpose.

Local residents rose up in anger and blocked this proposal, just as other residents would block his similar proposals in the West Village and Washington Heights – even as Dr Wallace received awards for his work and grants for pursue its projects. In June 1994, Mirabella magazine named Dr Wallace one of its “100 Intrepid Wives” for his determination to help prostitutes over neighbors’ objections.

Prevented from installing these homes, Dr. Wallace had to work in a mobile van, from which she offered a range of social services. Her goal, she told The Times in 1992, was not to stop transactions between prostitutes and their clients, but to make them more secure.

To that end, she also started the Treatment Readiness Program, an alternative sentencing project in Manhattan Criminal Court in which prostitutes were given condoms and AIDS prevention and drug treatment literature. instead of being sent to jail.

Joyce Irene Malakoff was born November 25, 1940 in Philadelphia but grew up in Queens. His father, Samuel Malakoff, was a teacher in a vocational high school. Her mother, Henrietta Yetta (Hameroff) Malakoff, was a speech therapist.

Joyce was 12 in 1954 when one of her younger brothers, 8-year-old Lee, fell ill with leukemia and died the following year. This trauma motivated her to become a doctor.

She graduated from Queens College in 1961 with a degree in history, then studied medicine at Columbia University’s School of General Studies. She received her medical degree from the State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn, known as Downstate, in 1968.

A brief first marriage in the 1950s ended in annulment. Her marriage in 1964 to Lance Wallace, a researcher, ended in divorce in 1973. She married Arthur Kahn, a stockbroker, in 1979; they separated in 1983 and subsequently divorced.

In addition to his son and daughter, Dr. Wallace is survived by four grandchildren.

She did her internship and residencies in New York and Long Island. With the fantasy of becoming a country doctor, she opened a private practice in North Conway, NH, in 1973, but lasted barely a year before deciding that she was not suited to small town life and moved to Manhattan, where she established her practice in the village.

She founded the Sexually Transmitted Disease Research Foundation in 1982 and served as its President and then Executive and Medical Director until 2003. She has held academic positions at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York Medical College and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Most of the awards Dr. Wallace received recognized his courage and determination in the face of great difficulty. One was the Brooke Russell Astor Award, a $ 10,000 gift given to an unsung hero who is “relentless” in improving the quality of life in New York City.