In honour of their exceptional contribution to the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, globally acclaimed Indian-origin South African couple, Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, were presented a prestigious award by the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) in Baltimore, US.
Acclaimed American biomedical researcher, Robert Gallo, known for his discovery that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the infectious agent responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), bestowed the award at the 19th international meeting of the IHV.
Who are Professor Salim Abdool Karim and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim?
The couple is clinical infectious diseases epidemiologists widely recognised for their research contributions in HIV prevention and treatment.
Salim is a CAPRISA Professor for Global Health in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He also serves as the Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD, Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA, is mainly known for her research in understanding the evolving HIV epidemic in South Africa, factors influencing the spread of the HIV infection in adolescent girls and sustainable strategies to introduce antiretroviral therapy in resource-constrained settings.
Both the researchers are involved in the development of innovative ways of preventing HIV in women. They are both professors of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York and honorary academics at the University of KwaZulu- Natal in South Africa.
It was this couple that researched extensively to develop microbicides for HIV prevention for over 20 years. They discovered CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel, the first drug proven to be effective in the prevention of sexually transmitted HIV infection and herpes simplex virus type 2 in women.
They first demonstrated how antiretrovirals could prevent sexual transmission of HIV in 2010 with the results of the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel Trial. This landmark study was recognised as one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year in 2010.
According to PTI, Robert Gallo lauded the couple’s dedicated service to the field saying, “To me‚ both these renowned individuals have made some of the greatest contributions in the history of HIV/AIDS in public health and epidemiology relevant to prevention and care of infected people”.
He also added, “I don’t know any person or persons who have done more to advance the proper care of people with HIV infection or the prevention of HIV infection among a population.”
Humbled by the honour, the couple said, “We accept the award not just on our own behalf‚ but in recognition of the resilience and contributions of the thousands of South Africans‚ who have been central as participants in the research‚ to the ongoing effort to develop better and more effective HIV prevention and treatment strategies.”