ACON Mourns The Loss Of Australian HIV Pioneer


The Board and staff of ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention, support and LGBTI health organisation, mourn the passing of one of Australia’s pioneering researchers into HIV/AIDS, and passionate LGBTI health advocate, Scientia Professor David Cooper AO.

Credited with diagnosing some of the first cases of HIV in Australia and being one of the architects for Australia’s response to the epidemic – that would later become a world-leading response – Professor Cooper was appointed the inaugural director of the Kirby Institute, or the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research as it was then known, in 1986.

Throughout its history and due in large part to the leadership demonstrated by Professor Cooper, the Kirby Institute spearheaded research into HIV and contributed invaluable information towards a complete transformation of the virus. This shift saw the diagnosis for people living with HIV from that of a near certain death sentence, to a chronic manageable condition which can be treated with one pill a day.

Ever since its establishment in 1985, ACON has had an extremely close relationship with Professor Kirby and all the staff at the Kirby Institute; working in collaboration towards shared goals of zero transmissions and effective support and treatment for people living with HIV in NSW.

Led by Professor Cooper and the Kirby Institute, most recently this relationship has seen overwhelmingly successful implementation of EPIC-NSW, the world’s largest – and world-leading – clinical trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily pill that prevents the transmission of HIV, which now has over 9,000 people enrolled in NSW.

ACON President Dr Justin Koonin said that the loss of such a giant will indelibly leave its mark on the Australian and international HIV/AIDS landscape.

“David’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of people affected by HIV and LGBTI people has been immeasurable. We have all benefitted from his uncompromising principles and integrity, his passion, his fierce intelligence and intellect, his pioneering spirit and his compassion,” Dr Koonin said.

“From only being able to offer compassionate palliative care to gay men succumbing to AIDS-related illnesses in his ward at St Vincent’s Hospital, to spearheading research showing that HIV treatment leading to an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission, David’s lifelong dedication to people living with HIV and broader LGBTI health and wellbeing has improved countless lives of people in Australia and around the world.

“ACON has been privileged to share a close working relationship with David as the head of the Kirby Institute for many decades,” Dr Koonin added. “Our progress and achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the result of collaboration and partnership and, in 2017, ACON was proud to honour David and his Kirby Institute colleagues with the ACON President’s award at the annual Honour Awards.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to David’s family and loved ones, as well as the staff of the Kirby Institute. He will be greatly missed by all of us here at ACON as well as more broadly across the HIV and health sectors in NSW, Australia and internationally,” Dr Koonin said.


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