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Renowned AIDS researcher Dr. Mark Wainberg dead at 71

By Daniel Uria
Renowned AIDS researcher Dr. Mark Wainberg dead at 71
Dr. Mark Wainberg receives a candle from Thailand's Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan (during the closing session of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, 16 July 2004. Wainberg, who was responsible for discovering the effectiveness of the antiviral drug 3TC on AIDS patients was buried on Friday after he died while swimming with his son in Florida. Photo by Vinai Dithajohn/EPA

April 15 (UPI) -- Mark Wainberg, a trailblazing researcher who identified a drug that improved treatment of people with HIV, was buried Friday after dying at the age of 71.

Mourners gathered at the Tifereth Beth David Synagogue in Quebec, Canada, to remember Wainberg for his contributions to the fight against AIDS as both a microbiologist and an advocate for the cause.

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"How many people in this world can say that their work saved millions of lives," his son Zev Wainberg said.

Wainberg drowned while swimming in rough surf with his son in Bal Harbour, Fla., on Tuesday and was declared dead after being taken to nearby Aventura Hospital.

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In 1989, Wainberg discovered the antiviral drug known as 3TC, or Lamivudine, was effective against HIV. The drug is still included in a "AIDS cocktail" of drugs to treat patients today.

Wainberg was born in 1945 in Montreal where he attended McGill University and graduated with a bachelor's degree before earning a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Columbia University.

In addition to his contributions as a researcher, Wainberg also spent several years serving as president of the International AIDS Society where he held a conference in South Africa to discuss then President Thabo Mbeki's denial of a link between the human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS.

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"He was the first one to have the conference in Africa, at a time when the extent of the epidemic was not well-known here in the west and in developed countries," Dr. Eric Cohen of the Montreal Research Institute said.

Wainberg believed his work at the conference helped encourage governments and other assistance groups to purchase aids medicine for those in need.

"I remember how he was pushing to have all medication available to the African people, so it's great for the entire world HIV community," Dr. Hughes Loemba of the University of Ottawa said.

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Wainberg is also survived by son Jonathan, wife Susan, three grandchildren and brother Lawrence.

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