UNAIDS Names Dr. Abdool Karim Chair of Scientific Expert Panel

June 4, 2013

The Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Michel Sidibé announced the appointment of South African scientist, Salim S. Abdool Karim, MD, PhD, and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Professor of Epidemiology, as chair of the newly established UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel. Mr. Sidibé made the announcement in Durban, South Africa during his opening address at a UNAIDS Scientific Symposium on mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The panel will advise UNAIDS on major new scientific discoveries, as well as gaps and strategic needs in AIDS research and on how UNAIDS can adjust its policies to address these needs and shape the AIDS response.

“In the thirty years since HIV was identified, the progress made by science has been extraordinary and its benefits have been felt far beyond those directly affected by HIV,” said Mr. Sidibé. “To reach the end of the AIDS epidemic, we need to continue to embrace science and innovation and I am delighted that Professor Karim has agreed to take on the leadership of our new UNAIDS scientific panel.”

Chaired by Dr. Karim, director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), a long-standing UNAIDS Collaborating Center, the panel will provide strategic advice on the relevance of new research and findings and how they can be rapidly implemented to best effect to prevent new HIV infections and improve the lives of people living with HIV.

“Science has the power to illuminate the future path to defeating AIDS. I am humbled by this appointment and look forward to this new challenge,” said Dr. Karim, an epidemiologist, who has conducted research on HIV epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention and treatment over the past 25 years.  In addition to Dr. Karim’s faculty position at the Mailman School of Public Health, he holds an academic appointment at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa and is interim President of the South African Medical Research Council.

As part of its new mandate the panel will convene international scientific consultations on behalf of UNAIDS, the first of which is already underway in Durban South Africa. At the meeting experts will discuss ways to improve early diagnosis of HIV in new-born children and implications of starting them on antiretroviral therapy early.

The members of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel will be announced in the coming weeks.