House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Constituency Statements

Cooper, Professor David, AO

11:41 am

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to offer my condolences on the passing of Professor David Cooper on 18 March. I particularly want to offer my condolences to Professor Cooper's daughters, Ilana and Becky, and to his wife, Dorrie. Professor Cooper's groundbreaking research into infectious diseases saved countless lives across Australia and right across the world. Working in Boston in the early 1980s, Professor Cooper saw the early signs of what soon would become the global HIV epidemic. Returning to Sydney to work at St Vincent's Hospital, Professor Cooper was at the forefront of efforts to combat the epidemic, diagnosing the first Australian case in 1982 and releasing a seminal case report in The Lancet in 1986 on HIV seroconversion illness, which defines initial HIV infection in many people.

Professor Cooper made a contribution to the development of every single therapeutic drug used across the world to fight HIV. During a time of stigma and ignorance, when some staff refused even to take food into the rooms of patients, Professor Cooper's approach was driven by his belief that every patient deserved dignity, care and compassion. This approach extended beyond patients to the wider LGBTI community, as he remained publicly accessible, attempting to ease the fears and anxieties of a group of patients who were losing so many of their friends and partners.

As effective HIV treatments brought the epidemic under control in the developed world through the 1990s, Professor Cooper expanded his work, openly questioning why the accident of birth should decide the level of treatment for HIV that someone would receive. As President of the International AIDS Society, Professor Cooper was a driving force behind the paradigm shift towards an internationalised effort to combat the virus. Professor Cooper's work and legacy has expanded beyond HIV treatment, through the Kirby Institute, a body he founded in 1986 that now carries out research into a whole range of infectious diseases. Professor Cooper summed up his own working life by saying:

I feel valued to be involved in this work and to have been able to make a difference for so many people.

The work of Professor Cooper has enabled countless people all around the world to live long, happy and healthy lives. It is truly a legacy to be proud of. At a personal level David Cooper was just a thoroughly decent human being. I know his loss is very deeply felt by his family, and it is very deeply felt by the entire medical research community and the health community, and particularly through the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, and the many people who knew and loved David. Vale, Professor Cooper.