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In Memoriam: Bonnie Goldman

January 3, 2012

Bonnie Goldman

TheBody.com's staff created this page to commemorate the life and work of Bonnie Goldman. We feature here a collection of perspectives and remembrances from our staff, our experts, our bloggers and other members of the HIV/AIDS community. Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.

I am deeply saddened to share the news that Bonnie Goldman, TheBody.com's former editorial director, passed away due to breast cancer on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. She was 55 years old. Bonnie worked on the site from its earliest days in 1995 through early 2010. Her vision helped shape the site you see today and her dedication to the HIV community knew no bounds.

No one word sums up Bonnie better than "passionate." She was passionate in everything she did and said -- from fighting for the rights of people living with HIV to raising awareness of HIV in underserved communities. I worked with Bonnie for more than a decade and witnessed her passion on a daily basis. She never backed down from her beliefs and had a unique ability to make others see things her way. Her efforts online and off helped countless people.

She leaves behind a tremendous body of work on TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. You can read her numerous articles and interviews in our archives, but I would encourage you to start with her final blog entry as our editorial director, which she posted in January 2010, to understand just how much her work meant to her.

May she rest in peace and may her family take solace in knowing that she spent her time on earth wisely.

-- Aryeh Lebeau, general manager of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com




From Myles Helfand, editorial director of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com:

It's hard to believe that you can work closely with people for years and still feel like you hardly knew them. Yet here I am, looking back over seven years as Bonnie's #2, and realizing that I still have scarcely an idea of who she truly was. As Aryeh noted above, Bonnie's passion defined so much of her work life: She held (and stated) her views passionately, set our priorities passionately, executed projects passionately, and managed her team passionately. It was with that same passion that she cleaved her personal life from her work life; most of us never really knew the side of Bonnie Goldman that did not revolve around her fervent AIDS activism or her tenure as this site's editorial director for more than a decade. Her death two years after she left TheBody.com came as a complete surprise.

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From Olivia Ford, community manager at TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com:

Picture it: Mexico City, August 2008. Eight months into my time at TheBody.com, it's my first day in the city that will host my first-ever International AIDS Conference -- and be the venue for my first experience traveling as part of TheBody.com's team. The 16-plus-hour days and sleep deprivation began before we arrived in Mexico, and the pace picked up exponentially once we landed. I was immersed in some aspect of conference preparation -- heart racing, already behind on what I had to complete, probably close to a panic attack -- when my new international cell phone rang. It was my boss, Bonnie Goldman, a notorious and usually unyielding hard-ass. "I found this great store just a few blocks from the hotel! They sell ice cream cones at a counter in back! Come on over!" Was this a joke? A test? A trap?? "What about all this work?" was my strained reply. "Do it later!" This was probably the first time I'd heard the word "later" from Bonnie regarding work.

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From Terri Wilder, M.S.W., HIV education and training director; TheBody.com's 2007 summer intern and blogger from August 2007 to July 2009:

I have probably not talked with Bonnie in more than a year, but I thought about her often. I tried to call her several times but I guess life circumstances got in the way of us connecting and for that I am very sad. I would have liked to have told her how much I appreciate the opportunities she gave to me. She allowed me to spend a whole summer interning at the website, helping to create content that people literally all over the world would be reading ... and most of all, she taught me to be even more passionate about the HIV community than I was before. Her passion for the HIV community was never-ending ... it consumed her Ö and for that I would have liked to have told her that her life made a difference to the millions of people around the world who visit TheBody.com every day. I would have liked to have told her that her life's work in memory of her brother who died of AIDS was inspirational, courageous and moving.

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From Mark S. King, blogger on TheBody.com since September 2008:

Bonnie had the notion that I might have some fun documenting my life as a gay man living with HIV. Immediately, I bought editing software online and started to learn it. But I had my doubts.

There wasn't anything particularly special about my life, I complained to her in a phone call to her New York office. And a lot of it, like my ongoing struggle with drug addiction, was downright seedy.

"Tell the truth," she said. "The more honest you are, the better it will be."

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From David Alain Wohl, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina:

Many of us, particularly HIV clinicians, compartmentalize death. Like those Russian dolls, nested within one another, we have spaces for the different types of death we encounter. There is a big one for our patients for whom we know time is short, and a somewhat smaller space for those in our care whose passing came earlier than anticipated. These patients die and we sigh, maybe say a prayer. It happens. But, such a system to failsafe our emotional sanity falls apart when one of our own is lost. That is not supposed to happen.

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From Keith Henry, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, and the resident expert in TheBody.com's "Ask the Experts" forum on Managing Side Effects of HIV Treatment:

News of Bonnie's death was incredibly saddening. When I think of Bonnie, I think of someone who was unbelievably committed to a mission that involved pushing for better treatment for HIV-infected people and protecting their rights and dignity. Bonnie could be a tough taskmaster. Her questions about research findings at meetings in the pre-HAART era reflected deep knowledge about the topics and a fierce desire to pressure and impact the effort toward better treatment. I often felt challenged by Bonnie's energy, drive and insight.

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From Justin B. Terry-Smith, blogger on TheBody.com since November 2009:

When I heard the news I was so shocked in disbelief. My heart goes out to Bonnie's family and especially her daughter. She is at least in a space where there is no more pain. She did so much for us bloggers at TheBody.com. I remember when I first met Bonnie Goldman, I had emailed her and expressed interest in talking with her about being a video blogger for TheBody.com. She said, "No problem." She even let me keep the name for my blog that was very personal to me. She was such a beautiful person and she had such a good energy and light that anyone would love. She gave me such positive energy, even when an entry that I wrote did not go over well with audiences. She made me feel a part of TheBody.com family.

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From Heidi Nass, HIV/AIDS community advocate and educator:

When Bonnie took time off after leaving The Body and tried her hand at growing tomatoes that summer, she seemed flummoxed, offended and even a little tormented by the rodent thieves that were making off with her goods. When she got interested in something, which was always, she would talk about it in excited detail and inevitably end with, "Isn't that fascinating?" or, more often, "What do you think of that?" When she traveled to impoverished places she would bring an extra suitcase of things to donate to the nearest orphanage or AIDS organization. When her brother got sick with AIDS she came home to care for him and, when he died, she committed herself to making it easier and better for others trying to find good information and make difficult decisions in difficult times.

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From Jeff Berry, editor and director of publications for Positively Aware:

There are very few people who come in and out of our existence who leave an indelible mark on our lives, and Bonnie Goldman, for me, was one of those people. I was very fortunate to have known and worked with Bonnie during my first six years as editor of Positively Aware magazine, and she was editor of The Body. Bonnie was always questioning, questioning, questioning -- her ability to get to the real heart of the story, knowing just the right questions to ask, was uncanny.

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From Aless Piper, blogger on TheBody.com since October 2010:

I am endlessly grateful for the gift Bonnie gave me when she urged me to reconsider [blogging for TheBody.com]; of course I did. What I got in return was that elusive community Ned Weeks longed for in The Normal Heart, one of passionate, wonderful individuals committed to spreading the truth, and ending AIDS, and something I love to do with all my heart (blog for TheBody.com). And now I will not get to thank her. I thought, as so many do so often, that there would be more time.

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From Loreen Willenberg, blogger on TheBody.com since July 2008:

Bonnie always encouraged me to write, something I love to do but have a hard time finding time for. My constant "north-star," she would remind me how important it was for at least one member of the HIV Controller community to share her story to the world. How on earth she found time to carefully edit the pieces I managed to produce is beyond me ... she was always on the road to another conference, another interview or a work-related task.

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From Enrique Franco, blogger on TheBody.com since January 2010:

In a time in my life when I was thrown onto a raft in a sea of hopelessness and despair, Bonnie heard my voice. ... Bonnie was a beautiful person. Her memory will reflect that. Her actions and efforts will reflect that. She was compassionate and selfless. And so, here I am writing about a great friend that is gone. Although she has left us, EVERYTHING she has done will remain. EVERYONE she has touched will remember.

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From Nelson Vergel, Nutrition and Exercise forum expert and blogger on TheBody.com:

She never mentioned her illness, even while surrounded by people who had faced theirs in her presence. Maybe she wanted to always be the strong one for all of us. We will never know. This experience has taught me some things: I will never assume that I know why someone leaves my life without a reason. I will try to give these people the benefit of the doubt. I will try to reach out but respect their choices even if it is not pleasing to me. Bonnie, wherever you are, know that I am still pissed but missing you a lot. Not pissed at you, but at death for taking a hero of the community with her.

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From Thomas DeLorenzo, blogger on TheBody.com since July 2009:

Bonnie knew that by writing and publishing, especially on such a powerful force like the web, we were all going to keep our loved ones alive -- and help others that were still dealing with the virus to not have the same fate. Now Bonnie is gone -- and I feel that a link to the chain of all of those people I was helping to keep alive is gone. And I don't know who is going to take that place. And I worry that all of those people who we were keeping in the forefronts of other people's minds and hearts, are not going to be there anymore. For if they go, then a part of us goes -- a part of our past. And when large chunks of your social circle just suddenly disappear from existence, you start to wonder if those experiences you shared together happened at all. You begin to doubt your own memory. At least when someone is alive from that time period, you can still talk to them and your history is validated. It existed, and more importantly, it exists within our hearts. Bonnie did nothing less than keep a part of my own heart alive.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
Read Bonnie's Blog, "On My Mind" (Active From 2009 to 2010)
TheBody.com's AIDS Memorial
More AIDS Tributes and Articles on HIV/AIDS Memorials

Reader Comments:

Comment by: d najjar (san francisco) Sat., Jul. 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm EDT
i met Bonnie in the mid90s, in the context of HIV advocacy in the Jewish community. Maybe TheBody.com staffers don't know it, but Bonnie created an HIV/AIDS service organization -- named after her brother -- for Orthodox New York Jews. And she was up to the task. Of helping and fighting with her own brood. She did it because no one else did. And her own historic struggle with the boundaries of Orthodox Judaism informed her gusto.

My strongest memory of Bonnie was visiting her a month after 9/11. She took me to ground zero and then on a tour of NYC firehouses near her apartment. She had been going to funerals of firemen -- none that she knew -- and she wanted to show me their photos, taped to the firehouse walls. Later she drove me to a park I had never heard of near JFK, a place that for her was an oasis of quiet in a tormented town.

Bonnie is the only person I knew who told my partner he was quite lucky to have me. I relished her outspokenness. I knew it to be a cure for the ritualistic denials of Jewish Brooklyn -- of what could and couldn't be said, done, tolerated. Single-handedly she fought every strand of Talmudic shame. Brava, Bonnie. A good deed. A miracle. A life of service. And almost the entire world saved.
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Comment by: Peter Shapcott, director of The Eddie Surman Trust (London) Tue., Jan. 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm EST
Everyone at The Eddie Surman Trust was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Bonnie Goldman. Our deepest condolences to her family and friends
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Comment by: angela (lowell. MA) Tue., Jan. 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm EST
Bonnie you will be missed a lot, may God be with you; what a wonderful being you support People with HIV with all your heart; did not see the barrier between positive you treated everyone the same. may your soul rest in peace.
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Comment by: Nelson Santos, Associate Director, Visual AIDS (New York, NY) Fri., Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:59 am EST
Bonnie Goldman was a great supporter and friend of Visual AIDS. Most of our meeting were virtual, through emails and the occasional phone call, but she also made the point to attend many of our events, and was a true supporter of the arts. As the Editorial Director for TheBody, which host the Visual AIDS website, she was always there to help us "look good", guiding us through many changes and last minute updates, making suggestions on ways to highlight the art and provoke dialogue. She believed in the importance sharing knowledge, and building communication to create change and understanding. We thank her for all she has done and her dedication to the AIDS community. She will always be remembered.
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Comment by: Mark S.King (ATLANTA) Mon., Jan. 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm EST
Bonnie Goldman sent me the first digital camera I ever owned. She sent it with a message that she believed I might have a knack for creating videos on my life with HIV. Her instincts about editorial content and the potential of her writers was amazing.

Whatever success I have achieved through the "My Fabulous Disease" videos is directly attributable to this smart, insightful woman. I miss her terribly and remain grateful for her guidance.
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Comment by: jill morris (uk) Mon., Jan. 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm EST
I only found out about Bonnie's death tonight. We had only just made contact after a long silence, both of us busy I guess and she with a young daughter. She was a good friend to me and we had a few great holidays together- and some wonderful times in NY. She didn't tell me about the cancer and I am so very sorry I didn't have the chance to tell her how much I admired and respected her for her courage and dedication and how much I will treasure her memory.
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Comment by: Drew (Sydney) Mon., Jan. 9, 2012 at 1:03 am EST
There is no better Website in the area of HIV/AIDS than www.thebody.com

RIP Bonnie Goldman

Sydney, Australia.
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Comment by: Anonymous Sat., Jan. 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm EST
Thank you and God Bless you. Does anyone know the age of her daughter or if there is a place to donate for her? thank you
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Comment by: Bri (NYC) Sat., Jan. 7, 2012 at 4:29 am EST
I'm sad to hear this news. The world needs more people like Bonnie, not fewer. Her life and work truly did good for humanity, and she will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Bonnie, and thank you.
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Comment by: Dave (United Kingdom) Fri., Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:53 am EST
Bonnie Goldman and her team did a wonderful thing. I would be lost without "The Body". And I know thousands of others would also be lost without "The Body". There are pale imitations of this website all around the world, but none can compare with "The Body". Thank you Bonnie (and everyone else who is and has been involved).
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Comment by: Mansur (Nigeria) Fri., Jan. 6, 2012 at 5:11 am EST
It's so sad. She lived for humanity. Rest in perfect peace, Bonnie
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Comment by: terry t (s.a) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm EST
God Bless
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Comment by: JIMMY MACK (SOUTHAMPTON, NY) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm EST
Saddened by the passing of a powerful force in the fight agaist AIDS. I was interviewed by Body Positive Magazine in 1999 and then 10 years later was contacted by Bonnie(who found me through our mutual friend Mike Spabo) to do a follow up interview on line with TheBody.com. But her passion did not stop at that interview as she insisted that I write a blog for this website. With her encouragement and skilled editing I wound up telling of the many ways HIV has affected my life since testing HIV+ in 1987. I found my blog here to be the therapy I needed to be at ease with my disease and to openly let go of the shame I felt of having HIV. When I got sober in 1992, I learned that you are as sick as your secrets and with Bonnies encouragemnt I was able to let go of all my secrets on this website and to handle life with the disease with grace and dignity. To date I have recieved hundreds of emails from around the world from people affected by HIV who read my blog on this sight, all of them have been life affirming and encouraging as, I hope, my responses have been. Thank you Bonnie for your encouragement, support and mostly for your passion and courage! You will be missed...
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Comment by: David Scondras (Cambridge MA) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm EST
Bonnie worked with us at Search For A Cure for years, lifting our spirits when we were down, making us laugh, giving us enthusiasm and helping us see clearly what was relevant and what was not in HIV policies and in the development of new therapies. Bonnie was kind, thoughtful, energetic and we will miss her. She was an easy person to love.
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Comment by: Bernard Jackson (Falls Church Va ) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm EST
So very sorry to hear of her passing! Her dedication to her work impacted many lives.I know that she will be missed by many. In our hearts she will live on!Thanks Bonnie for caring!!!
Much love and respect!
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Comment by: River Huston (US Virgin Islands) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 6:22 am EST
Through most of the time I have been positive I have lived where there were no services for people with HIV. When you live with HIV, at least for me, it is so important to have a place to get straightforward information, a place to express feelings and hear how other people are surviving and thriving. Bonnie made that place and it has been invaluable. Through the 14 years that I had known Bonnie, she was always so supportive and enthusiastic in her support of any of my ideas. As others have said she was passionate and her energy never flagged in the years she dedicated herself to the Body. I donít think she had any idea how many people she helped cope, deal, learn and understand HIV. She is in my heart and my prayers go out to her family for their loss.
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Comment by: Lonny LeFever (Rosewood, Ohio) Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 at 1:58 am EST
Her compassion and kmowledge will be misdsed by many. Our prayers and thought go out to her family,we know her pain and suffering and know she is at peace now.

Bonnie you gave it your all and no one could have ask for more.
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Comment by: Sherri Lewis (Los Angeles) Wed., Jan. 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm EST
I was shocked and saddened to hear that Bonnie had died. What happened? Was she sick? Then the news from TheBody's Olivia told of her breast cancer, a long time battle that took her life from her young daughter way to early. But in the time that Bonnie was here on this earth, how fortunate I have been by her deep hearted activism that first caught fire based on the loss of her brother to AIDS back in the early days.

I was blessed to have first connected with Bonnie for a podcast interview in 2007 Coping with HIV along with 3 other people sharing their experience living with HIV and a psychiatrist to add to Bonnies thoughtful interview. A podcast in 2007 with an online substance to read along which cutting edge. Before we had positive podcasts Bonnie Goldman created those interviews and posted them for the world to hear and read.

By 2009 Bonnie and I had another interview. That is where we became more intimate, talking about being Jewish and how our community was like many others not taking on AIDS as something that was there's to deal with especially since I was Jewish and a woman which really left me out on my own, out of the demographic. I was particularly proud of Bonnie and the comfort I found speaking with her and the support she offered. She encouraged me to write a book and that I had a duty to tell my story even offering her desire to write with me.

By 2010 Bonnie offered me my own blog at TheBody which thrilled me and am honored to continue to write. It was an honor to know Bonnie and the blessings she has bestowed on my life as a woman, a jewish woman living with HIV. It's an honor to be on TheBody.com which is the legacy Bonnie leaves for us for all time. I can hear her voice, remember her words. RIP my dear Bonnie. I write and blog in your honor. May your family have peace knowing you did so much in this world to make it a better place for your daughter and the HIV community which you loved so well.
Shalom
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Comment by: Robert Breining (Levittown , PA) Wed., Jan. 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm EST
Thank you Bonnie for your dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Thank you for believing in me. You are an angel and will be missed :)
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Comment by: Justin B Terry-Smith (Laurel, MD) Wed., Jan. 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm EST
Bonnie your light and beauty will shine forever. You did so much for us sister and I will never forget you for the love and strength that you gave in the fight against HIV. The heavens will welcome you with open arms. They have truly gained a magnificent angel. Now your soul is at rest and we will miss you so much.
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