Rhodes University honours CAPRISA's Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim

7 April 2022

At its graduation ceremony on 08 April, Rhodes University conferred a degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) (honoris causa) on epidemiologist Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, who is well-known for her research on preventing HIV infection in adolescent girls and young women.

Professor Abdool Karim, co-founder of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), demonstrated for the first time that antiretrovirals could prevent HIV infection. These findings were highlighted by the journal Science as one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs in 2010.

Aside from her professional work as the Associate Scientific Director at CAPRISA, she is a Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University and Pro Vice-Chancellor of African Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

She has 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 which has trained over 600 scientists in southern Africa.

She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (USA) and a Fellow of The World Academy of Science, Royal Society of South Africa, Academy of Science of South Africa and the African Academy of Science. She is a South African National Research Foundation A1 rated scientist.

Professor Abdool Karim’s scientific contributions in highlighting the vulnerability of young women, the need for women-initiated technologies and the integration of HIV prevention efforts into sexual reproductive health services have been recognised by more than 40 local and international prestigious awards. These include South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe, from the President of South Africa, the apex TWAS-Lenovo Prize from The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), John Dirks Canada Gairdner Award for Global Health, the Christophe Mérieux Prize from the French Academies of Sciences, the John F.W. Herschel Medal from the Royal Society of South Africa, and the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award for Africa and the Arab States. She is a Living Legend for the City of Durban. 

In addition to her research, she serves as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV, Co-chair of the UN SDG 10 Member Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) for the use of Science, Technology and Innovation to accelerate attainment of the 2030 SDG goals. She is an Executive Group Member of the Steering Committees for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Therapeutics Trial and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Vaccines Trial. She is the Deputy-Chair of the WHO Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Her non-executive board memberships include the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (USA) and the CAPRISA Board of Control.  

Professor Abdool Karim has over 300 peer-reviewed publications and has edited and contributed to several books and chapters, including co-editing the 6th and 7th editions of the Oxford Textbook on Global Public Health.

She holds honorary degrees from the University of Johannesburg (2017) and the University of Stellenbosch (2020).

“Our nation is singularly privileged and distinctly honoured to have a scientist of her calibre and stature who is expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a manner that makes real, tangible and meaningful change in the lives of ordinary people of our country. We all owe Professor Abdool Karim an unpayable debt of gratitude and appreciation for her immense and sustained contribution to the work that has saved many lives and has significantly improved the quality of life for those infected and affected by HIV in our country and beyond,” said Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela.

Source:  Communications Rhodes University website