Leading AIDS scientist elected to the world’s oldest and most prestigious science academy

17 April 2019


EMBARGOED: Wednesday 17 April 2019, 11am South African time, 10:00am BST


Leading AIDS scientist elected to the

world’s oldest and most prestigious science academy


Durban, South Africa.   World-renowned South African AIDS researcher and scientist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has been elected as a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, the world’s oldest science academy.  Established in 1660 by Royal Charter, the Royal Society, which is based in London, has included many of the world’s leading scientists over the past four centuries from Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. To qualify for a Royal Society Fellowship, an individual must have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'. 

“I am deeply humbled by this honour. I am thankful to my many colleagues and collaborators who helped me achieve this. I hope it helps inspires more scientists in Africa to persevere in their pursuit of scientific excellence.“ said Abdool Karim who is the Director of CAPRISA, CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  In South Africa, Abdool Karim is one of three current Fellows of the Royal Society.

‘This is absolutely wonderful news – what a proud moment for South Africa!’, said Professor Glenda Gray, President of the South African Medical Research Council. Abdool Karim, one of the foremost AIDS scientists in the world, has undertaken HIV-TB treatment research that has saved lives and developed new approaches to HIV prevention, focused particularly on young women in Africa, the group with the highest rates of HIV infection. Abdool Karim, widely recognised as a visionary, whose leadership has been hailed in a 2014 Nature Medicine article as “…one of South Africa’s undisputed leaders in clinical research” and has been credited with turning around a “moribund” MRC with “visionary leadership”.  

He is the Chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel, Chair of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on HIV and a member of the WHO TB-HIV Task Force. 

He has previously received many awards, including the most prestigious scientific award in Africa - the African Union’s “Kwame Nkrumah Continental Scientific Award”. He is an elected Member of the US National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Microbiology.


Additional information:

Salim S. Abdool Karim, M.B.Ch.B, Dip.Data (Computer Science), M.S., M.Med, F.F.P.H.M., Ph.D., D.Sc.(hc)

Salim S. Abdool Karim is a South African clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist who is widely recognised for his research contributions in HIV prevention and treatment. He is Director of CAPRISA and CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at Columbia University. He is also Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Cornell University, New York and an Associate Member of The Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has shaped international guidelines on the clinical management of co-infected patients. He was co-leader of the CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel trial that provided proof-of-concept that antiretrovirals can prevent sexually transmitted HIV infection and herpes simplex virus type 2 in women. He is co-inventor on patents which have been used in several HIV vaccine candidates and in passive immunisation strategies with broadly neutralising antibodies.

Dr Abdool Karim is Chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel, WHO’s HIV Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee.  as well as the WHO TB-HIV Task Force. He serves on the Boards of several journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Global Health, Lancet HIV and mBio. He is a member of the Royal Society of South Africa, Academy of Science of South Africa, African Academy of Sciences and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). He is a member of the US National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Microbiology and the Association of American Physicians.

The Royal Society (London)

The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. The Society has played a part in some of the most fundamental, significant, and life-changing discoveries in scientific history and Royal Society scientists continue to make outstanding contributions to science in many research areas.

The Royal Society published Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, and Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment demonstrating the electrical nature of lightning. The Society backed James Cook’s journey to Tahiti, reaching Australia and New Zealand, to track the Transit of Venus. They published the first report in English of inoculation against disease, approved Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, documented the eruption of Krakatoa and published Chadwick’s detection of the neutron that would lead to the unleashing of the atom.

The leading scientific lights of the past four centuries can all be found among the 8,000 Fellows elected to the Society to date. From Newton to Darwin to Einstein, Hawking and beyond, pioneers and paragons in their fields are elected by their peers. https://royalsociety.org/about-us/



Smita Maharaj


Cell: 082 806 9931

Email: smita.maharaj@caprisa.org