Coovadia’s legacy ‘will live on’

Professor Hoosen Mahomed “Jerry” Coovadia with the textbooks he published over the years. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Professor Hoosen Mahomed “Jerry” Coovadia with the textbooks he published over the years. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 5, 2023


Durban — Professor Hoosen Jerry Coovadia died on Wednesday, four months after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 SA Aids Conference in Durban.

Tributes are pouring in for Coovadia, an icon of the medical fraternity and the Struggle for liberation and human rights.

Coovadia was buried at the Riverside Soofie Musjid in Durban North on Wednesday. He will be remembered for his vision in reviving the KZN Children’s Hospital in Durban and his contribution towards ending the HIV epidemic.

Media and radio personality Alan Khan said despite his multiple global accomplishments, Coovadia remained humble and kind.

“He was just remarkable. He leaves a tremendous legacy after a lifetime of commitment and dedication to the medical field and health sciences – and as a brave leader in the Struggle for a democratic South Africa. Thank you for sacrificing so much and thank you for working so hard to make our world a better place,” Khan said.

Professor Hoosen Jerry Coovadia. Picture 1860 Heritage Centre

Dental surgeon Dr Eubulus Timothy said we lost a great son of Durban whose life work had saved thousands of lives from HIV infection.

“Coovadia made us proud to be human,” said Timothy.

Durban resident Haroon Wadee said: “My late dad would always say that Professor Hoosen Coovadia, aka Uncle Jerry, should have been the minister of health and that he would fix our health system. We have lost a gentle, inspirational, wonderful, compassionate soul whose legacy will remain across generations of health system clinicians, policymakers, researchers, activists and students,” Wadee said.

Deputy vice-chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences at UKZN, Professor Busisiwe Ncama stated that Coovadia was an emeritus professor at UKZN and made many contributions to global health policies.

“He was internationally renowned for his groundbreaking research in HIV/Aids transmission from mother to child, especially through breastfeeding. With several accolades for his ground-breaking research, he was also a stalwart in the fight against injustices in South Africa and abroad. He is well known for incurring the wrath of Thabo Mbeki’s government by insisting on scientific integrity and campaigning for the roll-out of antiretroviral therapy, and he nurtured a generation of medical students with his prolific research,” Ncama said.

The Rural Health Advocacy Project SA described Coovadia as a towering figure, a beacon of integrity and a relentless advocate for those in need in the realm of medicine and the fight for health equity.

Coovadia’s work was a testament to his unwavering commitment to scientific truth, compassionate patient care and the pursuit of justice in healthcare, stated the Rural Health Advocacy Project SA.

The project said Coovadia emerged as a top paediatrician, dedicating his skills and knowledge to improving the lives of children. But it was in the realm of HIV/Aids that he truly made an indelible mark, becoming an international authority on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Professor Hoosen Jerry Coovadia. Photo: Niamh Walsh-Vorster

Leader of the National Independent Congress of South Africa (Nicsa) Narendh Ganesh said Coovadia contributed significantly to the fabric of South African life.

“His unrelenting fight for human rights in particular, assures him of his iconic status in the broader South African community and we owe him for his contributions a genuine debt of gratitude and appreciation,” Ganesh said.

Activist and film director Zackie Achmat said Coovadia spoke under the flag of the ANC at great risk to all of them.

“He was a leader in the Natal Indian Congress and ANC along with countless others,” he said.

In a statement, the ANC said: “The ANC extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to his family, friends and comrades.

“He selflessly dedicated his life to the liberation Struggle, fought injustice and advocated for unity and a democratic South Africa against the apartheid system of tricameral representation, which promoted segregation and inequality.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa said Coovadia was an outstanding scientist whose role in the Struggle for liberation will be remembered for generations to come.

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