WOMEN IN SCIENCE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim is Associate Scientific Director, CAPRISA, Honorary Professor of Public Health, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, SOUTH AFRICA. She is one of the five Laureates selected for the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards, taking place in Sorbonne on March 24th.
Worldwide, 2 million people became infected with HIV in 2014. Across the world nearly 37 million are already living with HIV, of which less than half are able to access treatment. Prevention of this global threat is the world’s top health priority. Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim’s contribution to this agenda has been profound. Through her work as a globally recognised infectious disease epidemiologist, she is respected for her seminal discoveries in the understanding of HIV infection and spread.
HER IMPACT: A BREAKTHROUGH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV
Professor Abdool Karim is world renowned for her scientific discoveries in HIV prevention, having devoted the last 25 years to HIV research. Her work has provided new insights into how the HIV epidemic spreads and impacts adolescent girls and young women in Africa. HIV infection prevention initially rested solely with men, for instance, whether they chose to use condoms. It was recognized that infection prevention needed to be put directly in the hands of women and that ideally an anti-infective gel, a microbicide, was needed. But two decades of effort by many research teams, yielded little but failure. Professor Abdool Karim led the team that finally demonstrated that antiretroviral drugs could prevent the sexual transmission of HIV when the CAPRISA 004 study showed that gel containing the antiviral tenofovir reduced the risk of infection by HIV in women by 39%. This stunning discovery was named one of the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010 by Science. She continues to study HIV prevention technology options that will give women in high risk populations, sustained protection through slow release, long action products.