The Kirby Institute’s long-time director, Scientia Professor David A. Cooper, has been awarded the John Yu Medal in recognition of his achievements in promoting regional and global health.
The honour, from The George Institute for Global Health, recognises Professor Cooper’s thirty-year involvement in the development of HIV therapies and the effort to ensure access to those therapies for people in low- and middle-income countries.
Professor Cooper delivered the 2016 John Yu Oration, ‘Antiretrovirals for HIV/AIDS – a modern medical miracle’, before an audience of health sector stakeholders, academics and business leaders, at the award ceremony on Tuesday 23 August.
“People in low- and middle-income countries often can’t miss a whole day’s work to go to their doctors, particularly when it may be only for a check-up,” Professor Cooper said. “Through a simplification of access to a medical professional, people can have these check-ups done in their community and will be more likely to adhere to their medication regimes.”
Professor Cooper sketched a history of the epidemic and the different approaches to drug therapy. He outlined a current study, called EPIC-NSW, in which gay men at high risk of infection are encouraged into an intensive test-and-treat program where they are given HIV therapy to prevent infection.
He also explained that internationally only about half the 33 million people living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy and that funding for the therapy roll-out has been unable to keep up with need. He explained that the only way forward is to optimise HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care outcomes to be “lean and mean” with demonstrably responsible use of limited funds.
Following the Oration, Master of Ceremonies and ABC journalist Robyn Williams moderated a panel discussion with Professor Cooper and Professor Anushka Patel, Chief Scientists of The George Institute for Global Health. During the panel discussion, Professors Cooper and Patel discussed how mobile technology could be used to improve treatment access for patients.
“We have to use the tools that we have to continue re-thinking the way we deliver treatment,” said Professor Cooper.
The John Yu Oration is an annual flagship event in The George Institute’s ongoing engagement with key stakeholders, government and non-government organisations to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.