Keith Cylar, AIDS Advocate and Co-Founder of Housing Works, Dead at Age 45
Keith Cylar, an AIDS advocate and co-founder of the New York-based housing advocacy group Housing Works, on Monday was found dead in his apartment in New York City, the New York Times reports. Cylar, who was 45, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989 and had cardiomyopathy, a serious heart disease. According to a statement from Housing Works, of which Cylar served as co-president and chief operating officer, Cylar died in his sleep on Sunday night after returning from an AIDS conference in Houston. Cylar was born in Norfolk, Va., and obtained a bachelor's degree in psychology from Boston University and a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. In 1987, Cylar joined ACT UP/New York and helped found its housing committee, which was the forerunner to Housing Works. With the help of partner Charles King and others, Cylar in 1990 co-founded Housing Works, a "militant" and "community-based" organization that is "often the agency of last resort" for HIV-positive people in New York, according to the Times. Housing Works offers social services, including health care, and provides job training and help with applications for other services. The organization, which has found shelter for 15,000 people, has a $30 million annual operating budget from private donors, Medicaid and profits from the organization's catering company, used-book cafe and designer thrift stores (Saxon, New York Times, 4/8). Cylar also worked with Beth Israel Medical Center in an effort to provide better access to AIDS clinical trials for minorities (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/8).
"For Keith, the struggle against AIDS, racism, homophobia, sexism, poverty and homelessness was a struggle for the very survival of our communities," Gay Men's Health Crisis Executive Director Ana Oliveira said, adding, "The greatest tribute that we can all make to Keith is to redouble our efforts in the fight for health and justice" (GMHC release, 4/7). Cylar was a "national figure on the AIDS scene, promoting the successful model of client empowerment and entrepreneurship to address social ills," Latino Commission on AIDS President Dennis deLeon said (Commission release, 4/6). Patricia Bass, chair of the CAEAR Coalition, said in a statement that Cylar's death "is a tremendous loss for our organization and the larger HIV/AIDS and social justice community" (CAEAR release, 4/6).