How Julio Montaner set the standard for AIDS treatment

Julio Montaner’s medical breakthroughs have helped save millions of lives. Many were inspired by one simple piece of advice from his father.

Dr. Montaner’s dad was a noted pulmonary specialist and expert on tuberculosis, which was a problem in their native Argentina. Julio Gonzalez Montaner told his son to treat the stubborn respiratory disease with a combination of drugs—one alone was not enough.

The younger Dr. Montaner leveraged this concept in the mid-1980s when, as a pulmonary specialist himself, working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, he kept encountering patients suffering from a previously rare form of pneumonia.

He hypothesized that while these patients seemed to have suppressed immune systems, their immunity was also acting erratically—they had inflammation, too. He treated them with steroids to curb the inflammation, then antibiotics to zap the pneumonia infection. It worked.

As it became clear that these patients were also suffering from an underlying new disease that would eventually be labelled HIV/AIDS, Dr. Montaner went to a conference in California and shared his discovery. His approach quickly became the standard of care for pneumocystis pneumonia, which often affected people with HIV/AIDS.

Diane Peters reports

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