"Nobody in Canada has made a bigger contribution to the field of HIV/AIDS research and treatment than Dr. Julio Montaner," said Health Minister Terry Lake Wednesday as the B.C. government held a special ceremony to honour the AIDS pioneer in advance of World AIDS Day Dec. 1.

'I'd like to invite you to reflect on all of the lives that we lost...but at the same time rejoice in the notion that we have learned a tremendous amount' - AIDS research pioneer Dr Julio Montaner

Beginning in the1980s with his early work at ST. Paul's Hospital, when HIV was an as-yet unknown enemy, Montaner gradually pioneered the antiretroviral therapy (HAART), that has now become the international standard of care allowing patients with HIV/AIDS to enjoy longer, healthier lives.

"I'd like to invite you to reflect on all of the lives that we lost — all the friends and families that have been affected," said Montaner in his acceptance speech, "but at the same time rejoice in the notion that we have learned a tremendous amount of information we can apply, not just to HIV and AIDS which is what we're doing, but actually to other diseases."

“B.C. is recognized as a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and is the only province showing a consistent decline in new HIV diagnoses," said the province in a statement. 

"HIV/AIDS-related deaths in B.C. have decreased by more than 95 per cent since 1996. Over the same period, new HIV infections in B.C. have dropped from 850 per year in the mid-1990s to 238 in 2012."

Dr. Montaner was recently inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.