Born in Taichung, Taiwan, on November 3, 1952, David Ho's contribution to AIDS research may be the most significant of any individual's to date; his work has influenced the understanding, investigation and treatment of HIV/AIDS worldwide. After attending Harvard Medical School, Ho began conducting research at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, and soon proved that, contrary to previous thinking, once the AIDS virus (HIV) enters the body, it reproduces itself in massive quantities almost immediately. His discovery heralded a significant reversal in long-held precepts of AIDS research and treatment.
Early Life and Education
David Ho was born Da-i Ho (meaning "Great One") on November 3, 1952, in the small city of Taichung, Taiwan. His father, who had worked in China as a translator for U.S. troops during World War II, immigrated to the United States in the mid-1950s. When David was 12 years old, he moved to California to reunite with his father, and adopted a new name—his father, a devout Christian, picked "David" out of the Bible.
Physics, not medicine, was David Ho's first choice of profession, but he changed his mind as an undergraduate student at the California Institute of Technology. After attending Harvard Medical School, Ho began his research on the AIDS virus at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Groundbreaking AIDS Research
Ho's research in the late 1980s proved that, contrary to previous thinking, once the AIDS virus (HIV) enters the body, it reproduces itself in massive quantities almost immediately. Previously, it was believed that after an initial infection, the HIV virus lay dormant for years before ravaging a patient's immune system. Thus, drugs were withheld until a patient developed visible symptoms of full-blown AIDS—usually three to eight years after infection. Ho's discovery heralded a significant reversal in long-held precepts of AIDS research and treatment, introducing the early use of a "cocktail" of drugs to retard the advance of the virus upon the detection of HIV in the patient.
In 1990, Ho became director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, based in New York City, "the world's largest private nonprofit AIDS research institute focused on the basic science of AIDS and its related research," according to the organization's website.
For his groundbreaking accomplishments in AIDS treatment, TIME magazine named Dr. Ho its 1996 "Man of the Year."
In addition to conducting HIV/AIDS research, Ho has authored more than 250 publications.
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