Scientia Professor David Cooper, founding director of the University of New South Wales Kirby Institute, has passed away.

The Kirby Institute yesterday announced that Cooper had passed following a brief illness.

“David’s life was dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of HIV and other infectious diseases,” they said in a statement.

“These diseases disproportionately affect the world’s most disadvantaged communities, and David firmly advocated health as a fundamental human right in all of his endeavours.”

Cooper was an early researcher of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, and regarded as an international leader in the fight against the virus.

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby, for whom the institute was named, remembered Cooper as a close friend and as a scientist.

“David’s special gift was having both a huge intellect and a huge heart,” said Kirby.

“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.

“But it was his great heart that all who knew him, his family, his colleagues and his patients, could witness every day. He was first a clinician, and that made him a great scientist.

“We will miss him terribly and be all too aware of his absence.”

The Kirby Institute has vowed to “carry on his work with immense dedication, honour and pride”.

Colleagues and friends have used social media to pay their respects to Cooper.

“Without doubt an enormous loss to us all and yet another giant in our sector gone too soon,” tweeted the Australian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine.

“His work had immense impact around the world. He was a wholly supportive colleague and a truly humane and ethical person,” posted Carla Treloar of the University of New South Wales.

The Kirby Institute is collecting messages, stories, memories and photos about Cooper’s life.

Contributions can be emailed to Luci Bamford.

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