Hundreds have gathered to remember immunologist Professor David Cooper as a pioneer and “global hero” in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Credited with diagnosing some of the first cases of HIV in Australia, Professor Cooper passed away at age 69 in Sydney in March.
Professor Cooper was appointed the inaugural director of the Kirby Institute – then known as National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research – in 1986, and dedicated his life to the prevention, treatment and cure of HIV and other infectious diseases.
He was remembered at a public memorial service at Sydney Town Hall on Thursday by colleagues, patients, family and friends for his significant contributions to HIV treatment and prevention that saved countless lives in Australia and globally.
Michael Kirby, former High Court judge and patron of the Institute, spoke about Professor Cooper’s leadership and legacy and the importance of ensuring the continuation of his research aimed at eliminating HIV around the world.
“David Cooper was tireless in the preparation. He was superbly professional. He gathered together a magnificent team,” he said.
“He reached out, beyond our country. We should be proud of such a scientist and of our country, its universities and the institutions, that produced him. His family that nurtured him. His religion that taught him. The patients that loved him.
“But he was not ours alone, he belonged to the world of science. Today we honour him as a global hero.”
On Monday, Professor Cooper was posthumously appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), recognising his “eminent service to medicine, particularly in HIV/AIDS research, as a clinician, scientist and administrator, to the development of therapies and to health programs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.”
Of the honour, Mr Kirby said: “To honour David, and to do so this week, has allowed Australia to speak with one loud, clear voice.
“David was one of our finest, bravest and best scientists and citizens. A golden decoration reflects the wattle of his beloved country.
“It is a shining consolation for Dorrie and the family. And for his colleagues at the Kirby Institute, and far beyond.”
A live stream of the memorial service can be viewed here.
(Memorial photo by Bec Lewis/University of New South Wales)