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(March 15, 1925 - September 4, 1989)
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was first found in West Africa, with the first confirmed case being recorded in 1959. The virus slowly spread across Africa and then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, exploded throughout other parts of the world. HIV is the underlying cause of AIDS, a disease that attacks the immune system, and is passed from person to person through contact with bodily fluids. As AIDS progresses, individuals become less able to ward off infections and fall prey to a variety of diseases that would fought off easily with a normal immune system. Health officials initially thought the disease was limited to homosexual men living in large metropolitan areas. But, they quickly discovered that both hemophiliacs and heterosexual intravenous drug users were also being infected. A French physician, Luc Montagnier, initially discovered that the underlying cause of AIDS was a retrovirus, a virus capable of reprogramming the body with a defective genetic code. This was a major breakthrough, allowing other scientists to develop treatments, and AZT became the first drug approved to fight AIDS.
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The McLaughlin Medal mini-biography:
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McGill University announcement of Dr. Belleau's death:
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The Science Behind the Discovery
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