4 Facts About SA’s Quarraisha Abdool Karim, The First Woman To Head The World Academy of Sciences

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, a South African scientist, infectious disease epidemiologist, and world-renowned AIDS researcher, was recently elected as the President of The International Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in underdeveloped nations (UNESCO-TWAS).

Abdool Karim made history as the organization’s first female president, taking over in 1983 to support research, education, policy, and diplomacy.

She succeeded Sudanese mathematician Professor Mohamed Hassan and will serve as president from 2023 until 2026. “It is a real honor and privilege to be elected as President of TWAS,” Abdool Karim said in a statement released by TWAS. “And to have the opportunity to build on the strong foundations established over four decades by my predecessors in realizing the aspirational vision of the founder, Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, on the use of science to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in the developing world.”

The South African professor is the current Chair of the South African National Aids Council Prevention Technical Task Committee, as well as a member of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel. She is also a UNAIDS Scientific Advisor to the Executive Director, a member of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Scientific Advisory Board, and the Chair of the PEPFAR Adolescent Girls and Young Women Expert Working Group. Here are some more facts regarding the world’s foremost AIDS researcher:

She led the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel Trial

She was the Principle Investigator of the groundbreaking CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel Study, which produced proof of concept for microbicides and was named one of Science’s Top 10 Landmark Scientific Breakthroughs in 2010.

She was appointed Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. She also serves as a visiting scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard University.


She has several awardsincluding South Africa’s highest honor, the Order of Mapungubwe

Abdool Karim has received over 30 honors and awards for her HIV/AIDS research, including the Royal Society of South Africa’s John F.W. Herschel Award (2021), the Kwame Nkrumah Prize for Science and Technology, the Institute of Human Virology’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the HIV Prevention Trials Network’s 2018 Ward Cates Spirit Award.

She has two honorary doctorates, one from the University of Johannesburg (2017) and the other from the University of Stellenbosch (2020). She is a ‘Living Legend,’ an accolade granted by the City of Durban on residents who have made remarkable contributions to the city’s growth. She is married and has three children with her husband, Salim, a South African epidemiologist, public health physician, virologist, and researcher.


She has earned fame as one of the world’s foremost scientific authorities in the field of HIV and Aids research

Karim Abdool serves on the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) advisory board, the HIV Center Strategic Advisory Committee, and the NIH OAR Mircobicides Planning Group.

She is the Co-Chair of the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a member of the National Academy of Medicine (USA), a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a member of the South African Academy of Science, and a member of the African Academy of Science.

She is presently the Associate Director of the Center for Aids Program Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), an infectious diseases epidemiology center focused on high-impact research on HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and SARs-COV-2 epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention, and therapy.


Abdool Karim has over 170 peer-reviewed publications and authored several books and writings

In 2015, she co-wrote the book ‘HIV/AIDS in South Africa’ with her husband and research collaborator, Salim Abdool Karim. She co-edited the sixth edition of the Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health in 2017 and was named UN Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV the same year.

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