The medical community suffered a significant loss on Apr. 11, 2017, when noted Canadian scientist and HIV/AIDS trailblazer Dr. Mark Wainberg died by drowning while vacationing in Bal Harbour, Florida. Authorities confirmed his death on Wednesday, April 12. He was 71.

What went wrong?

According to reports, Wainberg was with his family when the incident occurred. His son attempted to rescue him and successfully located the physician in the rough waters. With help from onlookers, they were able to bring him back to shore. However, attempts to resuscitate the acclaimed scientist failed.

When Florida rescue crews arrived, Wainberg was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Miguel De La Rosa, who is the acting Bal Harbour police chief, noted that authorities posted warnings on Tuesday about the rough water conditions.

Understanding the man and his mission

At the time of his death by drowning, the 71-year-old, Montreal-based physician helmed AIDS research at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research (LDI) and served as director of the McGill University AIDS Center, which is housed at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital. Moreover, the esteemed scientist was also a professor of medicine, immunology, and microbiology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, the same alma mater which he matriculated from in 1966.

The HIV/AIDS pioneer is best remembered for his contributions to the development and discovery of the anti-viral drug known as 3TC, which is also commonly called Lamivudine, in 1989. This drug is used in combination with other medications to treat infections that afflict those who have HIV. In addition to this groundbreaking feat, Wainberg has also been recognized for his many contributions related to HIV drug resistance and mapping of the HIV genome.

This research enabled him to identify many of the mutations present in the HIV genome that spur drug resistance in affected individuals.

Could accidental death hamper HIV cure?

In recent years, Wainberg had shifted the main focus of his work toward developing a cure for HIV/AIDS. His research was based on theories that HIV cannot become resistant to integrase inhibitors, which are responsible for blocking and/or suppressing viral replication.

This raises the question--Will Wainberg's Accidental Death, at 71, via drowning in Florida hamper or delay a cure for HIV? Only time will tell if the Canadian HIV pioneer's life's work will yield a cure for the disease he devoted his career to and endeavored to raise awareness about. Regardless, Dr. Mark Wainberg made it his mission to improve the lives of those affected by an ailment that 30 years ago was considered a death sentence. Today, thanks in large part to Wainberg's research and desire to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, the disease is treatable, and a cure for the one-time epidemic is on the horizon.