Dr. Mark Wainberg, microbiologist and creator of the drug Lamivudine, used to treat HIV/AIDS, died at 71 years old. He was a strong advocate for millions of people living with HIV and AIDS in Africa and gave them access to antiretroviral drugs. He died after drowning in the waters off Bal Harbour, FLA. His son, Zev tried to perform CPR before paramedics arrived and took him to Aventura Hospital. He was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Dr. Wainberg spent much of the 1980s studying HIV at McGill University. During this time the AIDS epidemic was widespread and many people were dying. He worked alongside Dr. Robert Gallo, who provided him with cells and antibodies to grow the virus in his laboratory at McGill.
In 1989 Dr. Wainberg found that Lamivudine or 3TC was effective against HIV and it came a very important part of antiretroviral therapy.
His goal was to eventually find a cure for HIV. In an interview with CTN, he states that, “It’s no longer enough to simply have said, ‘OK, we’ve done a great job and we’ve transformed HIV from a lethal sentence that used to kill everybody into a chronic, manageable disease’.”
Dr. Mark Arnold Wainberg was born in Montreal o April 21, 1945. He completed undergraduate studies at McGill University and earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Columbia University. His career began at McGill University as a staff investigator. When he died, he was director of McGill’s AIDS Centre and headed AIDS Research at Jewish General Hospital’s Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research.
Dr. Wainberg’s advocacy for HIV research in Africa put the issue on the map. Dr. Wainberg was outraged at people like President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa denied the links between HIV and AIDS. More than 300,000 people died in South Africa from 2000-2005 because there was no antiretroviral therapy available to positive individuals. He said the media attention from these deaths are what made various governments and assistance groups donate time and money to provide the drugs needed to treat millions of people who who needed them.
Catherine Hankins, Deputy Director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health an dDevelopment said that Dr. Wainberg’s shift to activism surprised her. In a telephone interview she said “ To see a basic scientist move well beyond the microscope and set out to change policy was quite extraordinary. He basically took the credibility he had from science to speak out and try to make things different. He made sure to say that AIDS denialism was not worth killing people.” His scientific research is far beyond basic, and his advocacy reflects that. His research not only made him an advocate for individuals with HIV, but the LGBTQ community at large. He donated a Torah in honor of a Jerusalem Pride Parade victim in 2016.