Apr. 27 2020

Abdool Karims Receive Prestigious Global Health Award

Epidemiologists Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, professors at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, were named the 2020 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureates for their outstanding achievements in global health research. The Gairdner Foundation recognizes some of the world‘s most significant biomedical research and discoveries.

The Abdool Karims received the award “for their discovery that antiretrovirals prevent sexual transmission of HIV, which laid the foundations for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the HIV prevention strategy that is contributing to the reduction of HIV infection in Africa and around the world,” according to a news item on the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) website.

Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim‘s groundbreaking CAPRISA 004 trial showed that tenofovir gel prevents both HIV infection and genital herpes. The finding was ranked in the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010 by the journal Science and was heralded by UNAIDS and WHO as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in AIDS. Their work provided the first evidence for PrEP. CAPRISA 004 and several clinical trials of oral tenofovir led to the WHO recommendation of a daily tenofovir-containing pill for PrEP as a standard HIV prevention tool for all those at high risk.

In addition to their Columbia Mailman School appointments, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD, is associate scientific director, CAPRISA, and adjunct professor in public health, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Salim Abdool Karim, PhD, DSc, is director and professor for the global health department of epidemiology, CAPRISA, and pro-vice-chancellor for research, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim was one of the scientists featured as one of five eminent scientists who have made major discoveries in drug discovery, and in 2013, she was awarded South Africas highest honor, the Order of Mapungubwe, for her breakthrough contributions. Salim Abddol Karim is chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on HIV and Hepatitis. He is an elected fellow of the World Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Science in South Africa, and the Royal Society of South Africa. He serves on the Boards of Lancet Global Health, Lancet HIV, and the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2017, both Drs. Abdool Karim were honored by the Institute for Human Virology with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service in recognition of their outstanding contributions to research on the AIDS pandemic.