David Cooper. | Photo: The Kirby Institute
One of the people often credited as the ‘architect’ of the HIV epidemic in Australia has passed away.
Scientia Professor David Cooper AO died on Sunday (18 March) after a short illness.
Cooper diagnosed some of the first HIV cases in Australia. He became known as an architect for Australia’s response to the epidemic – that would later become a world-leading response.
He was the first director of the Kirby Institute, founded in 1986 that was first known as the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research.
Just heard of David Cooper’s death in Sydney. An amazing leader in the international battle against HIV/AIDS. Along with the late Joep Lange, David makes us aware of the epidemic in Asia. Sad.
— Paul Volberding (@pvolberding) March 18, 2018
‘David’s importance as a clinician scientist in the field of infectious diseases cannot be overstated,’ said Professor Tony Kelleher, the Acting Dean of UNSW Medicine and head of the Kirby Institute’s Immunovirology and Pathogenesis Program.
‘He contributed to the development of every therapeutic drug used in HIV. All over the world he was respected as a leader, and at home he was an insightful colleague and unparalleled mentor.’
Cooper recognized patterns of diagnosis in Sydney amongst gay men. He enrolled a number of young men into Australia’s first clinical HIV research studies.
The results led to the first description anywhere in the world of the so-called ‘seroconversion illness’. Seroconversion defines initial HIV infection in many people.
I learned this morning of the passing yesterday of David Cooper after a short illness. David was an #HIV #research leader who helped define acute infection and contributed to many of the advances we now enjoy in treatment. He will be missed. https://t.co/Vw9EA0wPCo
— Carlos del Rio (@CarlosdelRio7) March 18, 2018
He recognized stigma was a massive barrier to people getting tested and accessing treatment. Cooper also turned his attention to ending HIV in developing countries.
Cooper’s huge heart
His close friend and Australia’s first openly gay High Court judge, Michael Kirby paid tribute to Cooper. Kirby credited Cooper’s ‘huge intellect and a huge heart’.
‘It was his intellect that made him a leader in the global response to the AIDS epidemic and led to the building of the Kirby Institute,’ Kirby said.
‘But it was his great heart that all who knew him, his family, his colleagues and his patients, could witness every day.
‘We will miss him terribly and be all too aware of his absence.’
Cooper and the Kirby Institute developed the ‘overwhelmingly successful’ clinical trial of PrEP in the state of New South Wales.
@_afao mourns Scientia Professor David Cooper. David was a man of science, but he never forgot that people are at the centre of the #HIV epidemic. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Dorrie, daughters Becky and Ilana, & the wonderful team at the @KirbyInstitute pic.twitter.com/TJVV6nN5H2
— AFAO (@_afao) March 19, 2018
EPIC-NSW, is the world’s largest clinical trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily pill that prevents the transmission of HIV.
NSW LGBTI health organization, ACON, worked closely with Cooper since its inception in 1985.
‘David’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of people affected by HIV and LGBTI people has been immeasurable,’ said ACON president, Justin Koonin.
‘We have all benefitted from his uncompromising principles and integrity, his passion, his fierce intelligence and intellect, his pioneering spirit and his compassion.’
Vale Prof David Cooper, a leading clinician/scientist/advocate in HIV/AIDS. “David’s special gift was having both a huge intellect and a huge heart” says his close friend The Hon Michael Kirby https://t.co/4iLW0snLuK
— Melissa Sweet (@croakeyblog) March 19, 2018