ASHM Welcomes New Honorary Life Members

December 18, 2023

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Each year, ASHM acknowledges the extraordinary lives and careers of our members by naming a select few as Honorary Life Members. Nominated by their peers and selected by our Board, Honorary Life Members are people who have dedicated their careers to HIV, blood-borne viruses and sexual and reproductive health, and who have had a remarkable impact on the sector. 

This year, we are pleased to announce two new honorary life members: Associate Professor Marilyn McMurchie and Professor Darren Russell. Additionally, we have created a new category, the Distinguished Honorary Member, which has been given to the late Professor Ron Penny AO 

Associate Professor Marilyn McMurchie 

Since the very start of her career, Doctor Marilyn McMurchie has dedicated herself to caring for people with HIV. A former and inaugural President of the “modern” ASHM (1991-1993), Dr McMurchie has served on a number of committees over the years, many of which aimed at working towards the elimination of HIV. In the 1990s she received a World AIDS Day award, and in 2006 was named an Order of Australia Medal recipient in acknowledgement of her work in HIV.  

Professor Darren Russell 

Professor Darren Russell’s career in HIV began after he contacted Dr David Bradford in the 1990s, asking if he could suggest a course in HIV. Instead, he was offered a job – and never looked back.  

Of those early years, Professor Russell says: “Working with people who had HIV, along with at-risk people including gay men, injecting drug users, sex workers, and transgender folk was a real eye-opener for me, but I immediately felt like I had found my tribe. I have never looked back.” 

Professor Russell’s career has seen him become President of the Victorian AIDS Council (now Thorne Harbour Health) and President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO, now Health Equity Matters). Now, Professor Russell is the Director of Sexual Health at the Cairns Sexual Health Service.  

“My 33 years of working with ASHM have taught me that working together we are stronger than working alone. ASHM has been there every step of the way, so being acknowledged by my peers as an ASHM Honorary Life Member is a great honour.”

Professor Ron Penny AO 

This year, ASHM is pleased to name the late Professor Ron Penny AO a Distinguished Honorary Member, in acknowledgement of his remarkable contribution and ongoing legacy in the fight against HIV in Australia. Doctor Penny made the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in Australia in 1982, and developed a strong passion for finding an evidence-based response to the epidemic.  

A prominent figure in Australia’s response to HIV, as well as in the fields of clinical immunology and immunopathology, Dr Penny passed in 2019.  

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