Charles F. Farthing, 60, a physician who was at the forefront of care for HIV/AIDS patients and who drew attention to the need for an AIDS vaccine by announcing his willingness to inject himself, has died.
Dr. Farthing, who collapsed in a Hong Kong taxi April 5, had a heart attack, family members said in an announcement.
Dr. Farthing was chief of medicine for the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation from 1994 to 2007. He was planning to return to the foundation in June as director of treatment programs in the 32 countries outside the United States where it provides services.
At the time of his death, Dr. Farthing was based in Hong Kong and working for the pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp & Dohme as Asia Pacific director of medical affairs for infectious diseases.
"He was one of the most recognizable personalities in our field," said Michael S. Gottlieb, a Los Angeles physician who cowrote the first scientific report identifying the disease that came to be known as AIDS. "He had a lifelong commitment to the cause."
In 1997, Dr. Farthing was frustrated by what he saw as the slow progress of work on a promising vaccine that contained a weakened form of the AIDS virus. With drug companies reluctant to do expensive research that might be dangerous for human test subjects, he controversially said he would volunteer as a guinea pig. Others in the field followed suit and expressed their willingness, although ultimately the idea stalled.
Still, Dr. Farthing, who was unafraid to take outspoken positions, was for a time intent on the idea.
"Someone has to go first," he told the Los Angeles Times.
In the end, discouraging results from tests of a similar vaccine on monkeys dissuaded even Dr. Farthing.