We write to share with you the sad news of the recent passing of Dr. Charles van der Horst, an eminent research scientist and physician who worked passionately on the front lines of the HIV epidemic, both in the U.S. and Africa. Dr. van der Horst was an emeritus professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Charlie was remarkable in every regard and had truly superhuman energy and enthusiasm,” said Dr. Myron S. Cohen, HPTN co-principal investigator who helped to recruit Dr. Van der Horst to the UNC faculty in 1987. “Charlie led UNC AIDS efforts at the inception of the epidemic with courage, integrity and compassion. He was entirely unique, and his impact will be felt for generations,” said Cohen.
Dr. van der Horst’s career encompassed care to patients over many decades, as well as HIV research and implementation of high-quality programs for people living with HIV in the U.S., South Africa and Malawi. He was internationally recognized as a mentor of scores of clinicians and researchers.
“Charlie brought compassion and empathy to everything he touched,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, HPTN co-principal investigator. “He was tireless in the pursuit of social justice and dignity for all people.”
After his retirement in 2015, Dr. van der Horst volunteered as a primary care physician at a free clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also served as a senior advisor to the UNC-Johns Hopkins-Morehouse-Tulane Fogarty Global Health Fellows Consortium where he helped young investigators launch their research careers. Dr. van der Horst is survived by his wife Laura Svetkey, and daughters Anna Svetkey van der Horst and Sarah Svetkey van der Horst.