Professor Salim Abdool Karim

Renowned AIDS researcher Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim of UKZN has been awarded the prestigious Al-Sumait Prize for research contributions to African development.

The prize of US$500 000 (R6,9 million) and a gold medal will be handed to Abdool Karim by the Amir of Kuwait at a ceremony in Kuwait on 5 December.

The prize ‘recognises the best studies, scientific projects, applied research, and innovative initiatives that have a significant impact and lasting influence on advancing progress to economic and social development in Africa’.

Established by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of the State of Kuwait, in 2013, the award is named after the late Dr Abdulrahman Al-Sumait, a Kuwaiti medical doctor who dedicated his life to raising funds to support humanitarian and charity work for health, education and food projects for the less fortunate in African Nations. The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) and a Board of Trustees oversee the prize.

Two other winners of the award for 2018 – Professor Sheila West of the Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the Rakai Project Research Team of Uganda – will each receive US$250 000 (R3,4 million) and medals.

Abdool Karim, who is the Director of the Durban-based Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at UKZN, and Professor of Global Health at Columbia University in New York, is renowned for his seminal scientific contributions in HIV prevention and treatment. 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. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has shaped international guidelines on the clinical management of co-infected patients. He is co-inventor on patents used in several HIV vaccine candidates and in passive immunisation strategies with broadly neutralising antibodies.

A leading figure in global HIV policy, Abdool Karim chairs the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) HIV Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee and is also a member of the WHO’s TB-HIV Task Force.

‘I am honoured and humbled to be a recipient of this prize,’ said Abdool Karim. ‘It is really recognition for the hundreds of scientists who have toiled many hours in their laboratories, clinics and communities in undertaking studies with me over the last 30 years. I am deeply thankful to the thousands of individuals who have participated in these studies – none of this could have been achieved without their dedication and commitment.’

Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Nobel Prize Laureate for discovering HIV, congratulated Abdool Karim on his award, saying ‘this is a well-deserved recognition for Professor Abdool Karim for his excellent research that has made a major impact on the HIV epidemic in Africa’.

Words: Smita Maharaj