Julio Montaner, O.C.
- Officer of the Order of Canada – 2014
When Dr. Julio Montaner was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2015, Dr. Graydon Meneilly, head of the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, said, “Few can say they change the world every day. Julio changes the world every day.”
Science was much discussed in Montaner’s home when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His mother was a botanist, and his father was a prominent pulmonary specialist who developed a unique approach to treating tuberculosis: Do not hit the disease with one drug; hit it with several at once.
Fast-forward to the mid-1990s and Julio Montaner is a pulmonary specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, a city in which HIV/AIDS was cutting a deadly swath through the gay population. What had brought him to Canada was a chance encounter. Dr. Montaner had heard Dr. James C. Hogg, a physician from the University of British Columbia, speak at a medical conference in South America. The two had connected, and the Canadian physician had been so struck by Montaner’s passion and intelligence that he offered him a fellowship.
In Vancouver, Dr. Montaner adapted his father’s multiple drug approach to the management of his HIV/AIDS patients—and was completely taken aback by how well it worked. Not only were his patients staying alive, they ceased to be infectious. What came to be called “treatment as prevention” revolutionized the care of HIV/AIDS patients in British Columbia, and around the world, and dramatically changed the impact of the disease. With the right drug cocktail, AIDS was no longer a death sentence but a chronic, manageable disease. Patients on the antiretroviral program now have life spans close to that of the general population.