Canadian HIV/AIDS scientist Dr. Mark Wainberg drowns in Florida

A renowned HIV/AIDS researcher from Montreal has died in Florida.

Police in Bal Harbour, Fla., say Mark Wainberg drowned Tuesday afternoon while swimming with his son.

Acting Capt. Miguel De La Rosa says officers were called on reports of a person struggling in the water around 2:40 p.m.

De La Rosa says Wainberg’s son was able to pull his father back to shore, where officers administered CPR.

He says Wainberg, who was in his early 70s, was pronounced dead in hospital.

De La Rosa says there were red flags posted at the beach due to high surf and high current at the time.

Linda Farha, president of the Farha Foundation, a major Montreal-based HIV/AIDS research fundraising organization, said Wainberg was “enormous” in his field.

He was one of the doctors who helped her brother, Ron Farha, who founded the organization before he died of the disease.

“Dr. Wainberg was very present in Ron’s life and was a shining light for my brother,” she told The Canadian Press. “He hoped that something would happen one day. That he would find a cure.”

Farha said Wainberg was part of the medical team that discovered the first anti-viral drug to treat patients with the virus.

“He played such a big role on so many different levels,” she said. “And he was certainly a believer that he would be part of the team that would find a cure, but unfortunately he passed away before that.”

Farha added that Wainberg was critical in giving her family’s foundation legitimacy in the beginning.

“He attended every single event, like annual walks, galas, and he was part of the outreach,” she said. “He was a people person. He didn’t just sit in his lab. He was a pioneer, but also cared about dedicating his life for the cause.”

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette expressed sadness at the death.

“We offer our condolences to his family and closed ones,” he said in an email. “This is a loss of a major researcher in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

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