DURBAN – Proud, happy and reassured is how South Africans have expressed themselves following Professor Salim Abdool Karim’s presentation relating to the country’s Covid-19 response. Some have even compared him to one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has also served as advisor to every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
On Monday‚ health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and a panel of experts including the world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist Prof Abdool Karim, presented an update to the public on where we are as a country in the fight against Covid-19.
“I have the utmost respect for Prof. Salim Abdool-Karim (a South African epidemiological expert). The lecture he‘s giving is well crafted with the intention to empower everyone who hears it with knowledge & understanding. I‘m relieved to have minds like his at work for our nation,” tweeted Robyn Peterson.
Professor Abdool Karim is a Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist who is widely recognised for his research contributions in HIV prevention and treatment. He is Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at Columbia University.He is also Chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel as well as WHO’s HIV Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee.
“Thirty-two years ago, I told my wife that I wanted to become a fellow of the Royal Society. This was after I was blown away by a presentation made by my lecturer about the Royal Society while I was studying at the London School of Economics,” said Abdool-Karim.
“One of the things the lecturer spoke about then was that when you become a fellow of the Royal Society you drop all the qualifications after your name and simply write “FRS” (Fellow of the Royal Society).When you write FRS nobody would want to bother you with what your qualifications are because that is more valuable than any qualification. I was fascinated by that idea,” he said.
The society is a fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy with a mission to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science. Some of its late fellows include Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Prof Abdool-Karim’s 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.
The Durban-born infectious diseases specialist is also a staunch believer that the continent has great scientists who are as good as everybody else. “We sometimes impose on ourselves an inferiority complex that we are not as good as everybody else.I hope that this breaks that myth and says to every young person in science today that we can walk shoulder to shoulder with the giants in science anywhere in the world,” he said.
Some of his awards include: the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize in Medical Sciences, the African Academy of Science’s “Olusegun Obasanjo Prize for Scientific Discovery and Technological Innovation” and the “Kwame Nkrumah Continental Scientific Award”, the most prestigious scientific award in Africa.
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