This SA fellow is a right royal medical hero
South Africa’s leading Aids researcher and scientist joins the ranks of Darwin and Einstein
SA’s leading Aids researcher and scientist Prof Salim Abdool Karim has been elected as a fellow of the world’s oldest and most prestigious science academy, the Royal Society.
The London-based Royal Society was established in 1660 by Royal Charter and has included many of the world’s leading scientists over the past four centuries, from Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Fellowship of the Royal Society is awarded to an individual who must have made a “substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science”.
Abdool Karim, the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa), said he was “deeply humbled by the honour” and thanked his colleagues and collaborators for helping him achieve this accolade.
“I hope it helps inspire more scientists in Africa to persevere in their pursuit of scientific excellence,” he said.
Abdool Karim – who is also Caprisa professor of global health at the Maliman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, and pro vice-chancellor (research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – is one of the three current fellows of the Royal Society in SA.
“This is absolutely wonderful news – what a proud moment for South Africa,” said Prof Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.
Abdool Karim joins 50 eminent scientists who have become fellows of the Royal Society as well as 10 new foreign members for their exceptional contribution to science.
Venki Ramarishanan, president of the Royal Society, said: “Over the course of the Royal Society’s vast history, it is our fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realised: to use science for the benefit of humanity.
“This year’s newly elected fellows and foreign members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry – epidemiology, geometry, climatology — at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live, and it is with great honour that I welcome them as fellows of the Royal Society.”
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.
He is widely recognised as a visionary whose leadership was 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 chairs both the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and the World Health Organisation (WHO) strategic and technical advisory group on HIV, and is also a member of of the WHO TB-HIV task force. Abdool Karim is also an elected member of the US National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Microbiology.
His many previous awards include the African Union’s Kwame Nkrumah Continental Scientific Award.
In October 2017, he, together with his wife, Prof Quarraisha Karim, an NRF A-rated scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist, were awarded the esteemed Institute for Human Virology Lifetime Achievement Award for exceptional public service for their contribution to the global Aids response.