Cohen receives North Carolina’s highest civilian honor

Myron S. Cohen, MD, a UNC physician and scientist internationally recognized for his study of the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, has received the 2013 North Carolina Award for Science.

Cohen is Yeargan-Bate Eminent Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine. He also directs the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

The North Carolina Awards, established in 1964, are the state’s highest civilian honor. Presented in the areas of fine arts, literature, public service and science, the awards previously have been presented to Maya Angelou, Charles Kuralt, Charlie Rose and Oliver Smithies.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory will present Cohen’s award on Nov. 21 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham, N.C.

Cohen arrived at the University of North Carolina in 1980, just as AIDS was first identified. He and a multidisciplinary research team developed sensitive tests to measure HIV concentration in body fluids and were among the first to demonstrate that other sexually transmitted infections can increase the likelihood of HIV transmission.

Cohen is architect and principal investigator of the multinational clinical trial, HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052. The study showed that early treatment of HIV infection with antiretroviral therapy prevents sexual transmission of the virus by at least 96 percent. The work, which inspired hope for an AIDS-free generation, was recognized by Science magazine in 2011 as its “Breakthrough of the Year.”

“The UNC community is so pleased for this recognition of Dr. Cohen’s remarkable achievements in the field of science,” said William L. Roper, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Medicine.  “His life’s work to stop the spread of HIV infection is truly an outstanding example of the impact clinical research can have on millions of people’s health and wellbeing.”

Roper is also Stuart Bondurant Distinguished Professor in the School of Medicine, UNC’s vice chancellor for medical affairs, chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System and professor of health policy and management at the Gillings School.
In addition to Cohen’s award for science, the 2013 honorees include John E. Cram, of Asheville, for fine arts; John M. H. Hart Jr., of Keswick, Va., for literature; Phillip J. Kirk Jr., of Raleigh, Dr. John Harding Lucas, of Durham, and Dr. Walt Wolfram, of Cary, all for public service. The awards are administered by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or