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UNC Researcher Remembered For Work To Fight Infectious Diseases

Dr. Charles Van Der Horst speaking at 2017 ID Week.
Courtesy of Charles Van Der Horst

A doctor and former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor is being remembered for his work to fight infectious diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C. 
The family of Charles van der Horst says he died from an apparent cardiac event while he was competing in a marathon swimming race on the Hudson River.  

Van der Horst helped open an AIDS ward at UNC in the 1980s and was most recently treating patients with Hepatitis C in Wake County. He also advocated at the General Assembly against the death penalty and in support of expanding Medicaid.

Van der Horst was a guest on WUNC's The State of Things in February.

“If you're a human being and a physician and you listen to your patients, you become an activist,” he said. “I don't just want to take care of my patients' livers and lungs. I want to take care and make sure that they're treated well by society as a whole.”

Van der Horst described working with AIDS patients as a difficult and formative time in his life.

“We didn't know how to diagnose the various infections they got,” he said. “We didn't know you had to put them on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to suppress it. We had no drugs to treat the virus itself. We didn't even know it was a virus in the beginning. But you've got to step up to the plate.”

Van der Horst was arrested twice as part of semi-regular protests at the legislature known as Moral Mondays.

His funeral is scheduled for later this morning at Beth El Synagogue in Durham.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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