SHE-RO: Quarraisha Abdool Karim’s contribution has been vital in the fight against HIV/Aids

Quarraisha Abdool Karim. File image.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim. File image.

Published Aug 8, 2022


Johannesburg - In all aspects of society, there are phenomenal women who are making a difference in the lives of those around them while also striving to new heights. This Women’s Month, The Saturday Star will be profiling some of the nation’s leading ladies.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim is an icon in the health industry, a space whose importance was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 60-year-old is an infectious diseases epidemiologist and co-founder and Associate Scientific Director of Caprisa. She is also the a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, and Pro Vice-Chancellor (African Health) at UKZN. Married to fellow leading South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, the couple are among the candidates to receive the Fourth Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize from Japan for their work on HIV/Aids and Covid-19 in Africa. Meanwhile, Dr Salim Abdool Karim is the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) as well as professor of global health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“(They) deserve to be awarded the Fourth Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for medical research category for their groundbreaking research and scientific leadership in Africa over more than three decades,” the Japanese government said in a statement last month.

The duo have worked side-by-side in tackling devastating diseases while overcoming scientific and political obstacles.

“In their many achievements they embody the spirit of Hideyo Noguchi. At considerable professional risk, they confronted Aids denial, provided life-sparing antiviral treatments in defiance of government policy and developed HIV prevention approaches that empower women to protect themselves,” the Japanese government added.

The HIV scientists were also honoured last year in the Harvard Public Health Magazine’s list of 25 standout voices in African public health for being leaders shaping policy and practice on the continent. Professor Karim has also been honoured for developing HIV prevention solutions for women since 1990 when she led the country’s first community-based HIV prevalence study. She developed several woman-controlled HIV prevention methods at the time, including vaginal microbicides and rings infused with antiretrovirals. She also co-chairs a UN expert group advising governments on using science and technology for sustainable development.

The Saturday Star