UPDATE: The West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation will be holding a “Celebration of Life” for the residents of the Sierra Bonita apartments, which is where Chud lived. The event is in memory of Chud.
He is Jim Chud, and earlier this week he died. The cause of death has not been determined.
Jim Chud, 62, a resident of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp.’s Sierra Bonita building on Santa Monica Boulevard, was an expert in artificial intelligence and an architect and had a master’s degree in psychotherapy. He had served on the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board and on the L.A. County Commission on HIV. Chud also launched Advance Abilities Inc., a non-profit whose mission is to chronicle the stories of disabled seniors in the United States and also to provide tools to help them better experience life.
He also is one of the country’s longest survivors of HIV – a disease Chud contracted more than 40 years ago.
Chud became infected with HIV when he was a 20-year-old athlete at Yale University. In an interview with CNN, he said he then was leading a double life. He had a
In an essay published in HIV Plus magazine, Chud, who in 1987 was living in Washington, D.C., said he “drove to the National Institutes of Health and volunteered for whatever clinical trial would take me. I was 29, and not expecting to see 35. If I somehow hit the jackpot and the drug in my study was an answer to AIDS, then fantastic. If not, and the drug was useless — which was the more likely result — then at least I had done something concrete, even if it was just helping eliminate one of the failing therapies.
“The study I was in combined high doses of AZT and DDC, a new drug by Roche Pharmaceuticals. DDC, while effective in the test-tube against HIV, was very toxic, and put all 80 of us study participants through a whole host of side effects …
“About five weeks into the study I experienced the side effect that would change my life forever. At a restaurant, I started dropping my utensils for no apparent reason. In a surprisingly short time I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to put food in. Something was very wrong.”
Chud was taken off those drugs and his symptoms disappeared in a few days. But “I was told at the time that my immune system had mounted an attack on my cartilage, and that my condition was a lot like rheumatoid arthritis. What no one realized at the time was how much damage to my cartilage had occurred, or that the process would continue for years at a subclinical level.“
Chud was diagnosed in 1999 with a fungal infection of his sinus and brain that also required surgeries and many courses of toxic medication. It was a struggle that left him in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for five months and, at one point, broke and homeless. Over time, he had more than 80 operations on his spine, neck and major joints, leaving him seven inches shorter than when he began that drug study in 1987.
“The gift of being broke made me more empathetic and aware of the ways that we can help each other,” Chud said in an interview in 2017 with West Hollywood Community Housing Corp.
As noted in an interview with WEHOville, Chud has spent years researching obstacles that disabled people face to living life. Among those are the failure of websites such as Yelp to note whether a restaurant is accessible by disabled people and issues with “rollators,” the devices used by some to assist them in walking, that no manufacturer seems to be addressing.
Chud cited his experience as a resident of the Sierra Bonita as part of the inspiration for creating AdvanceAbilities.
“Over the last seven years, I have lived in a building purpose built with both the funding and mission to house and provide social support services for disabled seniors and helping us create a mutually supportive community,” he said. “Sadly, I have watched the senseless decline of many neighbors merely because they have not received the support promised us all when we moved in. Adding in a lack of family support and unfamiliarity with American customs serves to make the situation even more dire for some.
“Now that I am well enough to give solving this problem my all, I simply cannot just sit by and watch anymore,” Chud said. “… I feel confident about our documentaries’ ability to inspire others to act with me. I have met many inspiring people along my way, and am certain to meet many others. I am more certain than ever before that we will make a difference – a big difference.”