Date of Birth: 18th Jan 1947
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome): a collection of symptoms and infections resulting from damage to the immune system- the body’s defence against disease. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
AZT: the first approved treatment for HIV, which limits the virus, preventing it from multiplying
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): a retrovirus spread between sexual partners, by infected needles, and from pregnant mothers to their unborn children. It breaks down the body’s defences and later causes AIDS. There are various strains of HIV, for example HIV-1, which is more easily transmitted than HIV-2.
INFECTIOUS DISEASE: a disease that can be spread from one person to another, directly or indirectly
RETROVIRUS: a virus that contains RNA as its genetic code, instead of DNA. Many retroviruses produce tumours and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one as well
In 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan recognised The Bahamas as one of the few countries that had “turned the tide against AIDS”.
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Dr Michael Gomez, better known as Perry, led the public health response to infectious diseases in The Bahamas for over three decades, and helped to position that country as a world leader in HIV/AIDS management. His groundbreaking use of AZT treatments dramatically reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV in pregnant women. He initiated a partnership between governmental and non-governmental organisations for purchasing medication, a strategy that was adopted by other countries.
Michael Perry Gomez was born on 18th January, 1947 in Family Island, The Bahamas. His supportive parents passed on their love for books, science and service to their son. He attended Western Junior School and the Government High School in Nassau, and completed his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at The University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. He continued his studies at the Princess Margaret Hospital in The Bahamas and completed them at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. There, he finished a research fellowship in infectious diseases in 1975.
In 1977, Dr Gomez returned to The Bahamas and became the Infectious Diseases Consultant at the Princess Margaret Hospital, a job that required him to manage and prevent outbreaks of contagious diseases. After the country’s first case of HIV/AIDS was confirmed in 1985, the government chose him as the National Director of the HIV/AIDS Programme. Knowing that HIV/AIDS could impact all Bahamians, he asked for help form every ministry and international organisation that would assist him, and combined their aid into an effective response. Through this programme which was emulated throughout the Caribbean, many health professionals, teachers and workers were trained to help limit the spread of the disease and to provide care and support for AIDS patients.
Dr Perry Gomez has published articles in medical journals and lectured at several universities. He has been consulted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC).
During a three-year period, the number of HIV patients receiving anti-retroviral drugs tripled, and both the number of people dying from AIDS and the number of pregnant women with the HIV virus were reduced by half.
Dr Gomez’s compassion has kept him directly involved in the battle against HIV/AIDS. He counsels new patients and treats many of them himself. He makes sure that his co-workers and the doctors under his training can reach him at any time. He also hosts conferences and workshops to train other Caribbean doctors and encourages other Caribbean countries to help each other in the fight against AIDS. Because of his reputation and skills, he is a popular speaker and consultant in the field.
He advises young people to have big dreams, set goals, stay focused, love life, be cautious, work hard and pursue excellence.