Act against Aids

Ruedi Lüthy

A tireless campaigner for people with HIV

One person in particular is at the very heart of the Ruedi Lüthy Foundation: Prof. Ruedi Lüthy himself, the Swiss Aids specialist who set up the foundation and Newlands Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe. He remains personally committed to caring for the some 6,000 HIV patients and training healthcare workers to this day.

Film portrait of Ruedi Lüthy

In the film, Ruedi Lüthy talks about why he decided to go to Zimbabwe in 2003 to set up an HIV clinic, and his hopes for the future of the project. A film by Simon Huber (2017).

If you ask Ruedi Lüthy why he didn't want to retire and take things easy after a rich and fulfilled career as a doctor, professor and clinic director, his initial reaction is one of puzzlement, as if he can't quite understand the question. If there are people in need and he has knowledge that can save lives, he would never even think about simply standing by.

Aids expert from the outset

As a specialist in in the field, Ruedi Lüthy has been dealing with Aids since the 1980s. As head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at University Hospital Zurich, in the first few years he could do little more than be there for the people as they died. It was against this backdrop that he set up the Lighthouse hospice in Zurich at the end of the 1980s with other specialists, which he ran for several years. Once effective drugs were finally developed in the mid-1990s, Ruedi Lüthy went on to treat hundreds of HIV and Aids patients, and to educate the general public about the taboo disease in language everyone could understand.

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Helping where help is needed most

Since 2003, he has been putting his knowledge and expertise to use in Zimbabwe in southern Africa. The pandemic has inflicted immeasurable suffering on Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for more than two thirds of the 1.2 million HIV-related deaths worldwide every year. In Zimbabwe alone, there are around 1.6 million HIV-positive people, and around 40,000 sufferers die every year. But there is a lack of everything: the necessary infrastructure, trained specialists, and financial resources.

Ruedi Lüthy gathered donations, brought the required equipment to the country, and ultimately set up an out-patient HIV clinic in the capital city, Harare. As the Founder and long-standing Director of the clinic, he still personally ensures that patients are well cared for at Newlands Clinic, and is passing on the knowledge he has amassed over the years to local healthcare workers. Country Director Matthias Widmaier and Medical Coordinator Stefan Zimmerli are now responsible for the running of the clinic.

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1/6: Prof. Ruedi Lüthy talking with patients who live in abject poverty in a suburb of Harare. (Photo: Katja Snozzi)

2/6: As founder and long-time Director of Newlands Clinic, Prof. Ruedi Lüthy regularly gave the team training in diagnosing and treating HIV. (Photo: Pia Zanetti)

3/6: Prof. Ruedi Lüthy in his element: at the Training Centre he regularly instructs local healthcare workers from other clinics throughout Zimbabwe. (Photo: Patrick Rohr)

4/6: Ruedi Lüthy has received many awards in recognition of his work, including the SwissAward in the “Society” category in 2004. (Photo: © SRF 2005)

5/6: Matthias Widmaier (on the right) took over as Country Director in December 2014. (Photo: Patrick Rohr)

6/6: Stefan Zimmerli, Senior Staff Physician at the University Clinic for Infectious Diseases at Inselspital, took over as Medical Coordinator of Newlands Clinic in October 2017.