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In Memoriam: Bonnie Goldman

January 3, 2012

Bonnie Goldman'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,'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 and 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 and

From Myles Helfand, editorial director of and

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 came as a complete surprise.

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From Olivia Ford, community manager at and

Picture it: Mexico City, August 2008. Eight months into my time at, 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'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;'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 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 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 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'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 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 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 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 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 since October 2010:

I am endlessly grateful for the gift Bonnie gave me when she urged me to reconsider [blogging for]; 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 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 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 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

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 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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