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Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim


Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim is one of the world’s leading AIDS researchers who has made pioneering contributions to understanding the HIV epidemic among young people, especially among young women, and a strong advocate for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.

Such has been her global impact that she was appointed UNAIDS Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV in November 2017, where she will focus on adolescents and HIV, while also championing the involvement of young women in science.

Prof Abdool karim's landmark study demonstrated that Tenofovir gel prevents both HIV and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2), had a profound global impact. The study had a global impact and heralded one of the most significant breakthroughs in the fight agaisnt Aids.

“As we increase our understanding of the HIV epidemic and the transmission dynamics that place young people at higher risk of infection, all sectors of society must work together to make sure that adolescents have access to the information and services that can keep them safe and well through a crucial period of their lives and into adulthood,” she says.

Prof Abdool Karim has been awarded the ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medal for ‘outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society’ as well as the South African Medical Research Council Gold Medal for her seminal scientific contributions in HIV research.

She is also the recipient of several prestigious local and international awards including South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe, for outstanding work in the field of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Research and Health Policy Development.

Prof Abdool Karim’s research focuses on understanding the evolving HIV epidemic in South Africa; factors influencing acquisition of HIV infection in adolescent girls; and sustainable strategies to introduce HAART in resource-constrained settings.

Notably she was the Principal Investigator of the landmark CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel trial which provided proof of concept for Microbicides highlighted by Science as one of the Top 10 scientific breakthroughs in 2010.

MXLLS​​Between 1998 and 2015 she had played a central role in building the science base in southern Africa through the Columbia University - Southern African Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Programme that has trained over 600 scientists in southern Africa. Professor Abdool Karim is a visiting scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University.

She is an International Associate of the National Academy of Medicine (considered to be one of the highest honours in the field of health and medicine), Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, Fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa, Fellow of the World of Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences.

Prof Abdool Karim is a member of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and Scientific Advisor to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Scientific Advisory Board member of the US President’s Emergency Pan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Chair of the PEPFAR Adolescent Girls and Young Women Expert Working Group, a member of the HIV Centre Strategic Advisory Committee and the NIH OAR Microbicides Planning Group.

She is the Vice-Chairperson of the Board of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Chair of the Research & Development Committee for the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Member of the End AIDS Coalition (EAC) and Member of the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) for the South African National Chapter.


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