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'You are one of my heroes': HIV specialist killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Roberts Bowers entered the Synagogue and open fired killing 11 worshippers on Saturday (October 27)

2018-10-29

Words: Steve Brown

A doctor who specialised in HIV was one of the 11 victims murdered during the horrific shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania.

Dr Jerry Rabinowitz was a family doctor who served as a HIV specialist but on Saturday (October 27), Robert Bowers open fired at the synagogue shooting, "All these Jews need to die" and killed 11 people.

It is reported Rabinowitz ran to help those who were wounded in the shooting before losing his own life.

In a moving tribute, Act Up member Michael Kerr remembered the doctor in a moving post on Facebook and said: "My doctor Jerry Rabinowitz was among those killed in the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. He took care of me up until I left Pittsburgh for NYC in 2004.

"In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh he was to one to go to. Basically before there was effective treatment for fighting HIV itself, he was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest.

"He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always always hugged us as we left his office. We made a deal about my T-cells in that I didn’t want to know the numbers visit to visit because I knew I would fret with every little fluctuation and I also knew that AZT was not working for my friends. 

"The deal was that he would just let me know at some point when the T-cell numbers meant I needed to start on medications. The numbers were his job and my job was to finish my masters thesis and get a job with insurance and try to not go crazy.

"I got lucky beyond words — because when he gently told me around November 1995 that it was time to begin taking medications — there was an ACTG trial for two HIV medications that saved my life. One of which I still take today.

"Thank you ACT UP for getting these drugs into a safe but effect expedited research protocol. You saved my life.

"And thank you Dr. Rabinowitiz for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life. You will be remembered by me always.

"You are one of my heroes just like the early ACT UP warriors — some of which I now call friend."

The local LGBT group The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh revealed confirmed the shooting happened during a bris - the ceremonial circumcision - for a gay couple's twins.

They wrote on Facebook: “We were just informed that this morning’s tragedy was happening during a Briss [sic] for a set of twins adopted by a gay couple.

“Our hearts and prayers got out to all that were involved including the members of the Synagogue, law-enforcement and first responders.

“We have witnessed the worst of America this morning in our town Pittsburgh. More than ever we must come together as people and change the temperament of our country.”

The shooting has been described as one of the deadliest attacks on the Jewish community in the history of America.

Bowers will appear in court today (October 29).