Kirby Institute’s Professor Basil Donovan recognised in Queen’s Birthday honours

News | Published on 14 Jun 2022

Kirby Institute Professor Basil Donovan has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s Birthday honours

Professor Donovan, who is a sexual health physician and Head of the Kirby Institute’s Sexual Health Program, was recognised "For distinguished service to medicine in the field of sexual health through tertiary education, research and advisory roles”. 

In a career spanning more than four decades, Prof Donovan is a highly regarded sexual health physician, one of Australia’s most prolific sexual health researchers and one of the most highly influential figures in Australia’s early response to the HIV epidemic. He was among the group of clinician researchers who first mapped the extent of the AIDS in Sydney in the mid to late 1980s and contributed to the first description of the clinical syndrome of primary HIV infection; a world first. 

He co-founded the Taylor Square Private Clinic in 1981, and since then, has been known as a trusted and adored doctor in the Darlinghurst area among patients and colleagues alike.  

Having collaborated in a clinical capacity since the Kirby Institute’s earliest days alongside founding Director, the late Professor David Cooper AC, Prof Donovan officially joined the institute in 2003 where he established and continues to head the Sexual Health Program.  

“Having known Basil for the better part of three decades, I can personally attest that Basil is one of Australia's most trusted and valued voices for sexual health, here and internationally, and is a highly original critical thinker,” says Kirby Institute Director, Professor Anthony Kelleher. “It is very fitting that his significant contributions, both to his patients and to the community at large, have been recognised in this way.” 

At the Kirby Institute, Prof Donovan conducts highly impactful and innovative research that fills critical knowledge gaps. In particular, he has made significant contributions to the evaluation and monitoring of Australia’s world-leading HPV Vaccination Program. His work has demonstrated the program’s success in dramatically reducing rates of cervical cancer and genital warts in Australia, both of which are associated with HPV infection. This work has taken Basil across the globe as he has sought to advocate for a similar model in high burden, low-resource settings. 

His leadership extends to a range of Australian and international committees. He is a Chief Investigator of the Australian Collaboration for Coordinated Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance of STIs & Blood-borne Viruses (ACCESS); a multi-institutional, national sexual health surveillance network that monitors and evaluates STI and blood-borne virus testing and outcomes among priority populations, informing national strategies and guidelines. 

Prof Donovan is one of the most highly cited sexual health academics in Australia, and his work has informed critical policy and practice that has improved the sexual health of Australians, particularly those who are marginalised and under-served, including sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender people and gay and bisexual men. He has also trained and mentored many clinicians and scientists in this sector. 

In the early days of HIV/AIDS, Basil joined forces with local sex workers to advocate for access to condoms in brothels and, over the years, for decriminalisation of sex work throughout Australia and overseas. He has also worked toward sex work law reform in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uruguay, Argentina, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. 

“Throughout his career, informed by his clinical and academic expertise, Basil has been a staunch and fearless advocate for the communities he works with whilst providing compassionate and judgement-free clinical care,” says Prof Kelleher. “His work has saved and improved countless lives, and his multi-dimensional approach to sexual health should serve as a gold standard in Australia and across the world. This honour by the Order of Australia is richly deserved.” 

The Kirby Institute also congratulates our friends and colleagues who received honours: Dr Brendan Murphy AC, Dr Kerry Chant AO, Professor Guy Marks AO, and Professor Mary-Louise McLaws AO.