Japan to honour SA's spouse scientists for HIV and Covid-19 work

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Professors Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim will be honoured by the Japanese government.
Professors Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim will be honoured by the Japanese government.
Image: Matthew Henning

The Japanese government will award the prestigious fourth Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize to renowned couple professors Salim Abdool Karim and his wife Quarraisha Abdool Karim for their rigorous work on HIV and Covid-19.

They will be honoured in the medical research category, while The Carter Center in the US will receive recognition in the medical services category for its work in the guinea worm eradication programme.

Prof Abdool Karim is the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) in Durban and former head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, while his wife is Caprisa's associate scientific director.

The Japanese government said on Wednesday that prime minister Fumio Kishida made a final decision on the laureates based on the recommendation of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize committee.

“The prize aims to honour individuals or organisations with outstanding achievements in the fields of medical research and medical services to combat infectious and other diseases in Africa, thus contributing to the health and welfare of the African people and of all humankind,” the government said.

The awards ceremony will be held at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Tunisia at the end of August.

According to the Japanese government, the prize is composed of a citation and medal for each laureate and about R17m for each category.

“The honorarium is disbursed from the government funds and private funding from national and international donations.”

The Abdool Karims said they are “deeply honoured to be joint recipients of the prestigious Noguchi Medical Research Award as it affirms that African scientists are leading and making important contributions in the global fight against Aids, TB and Covid-19.

“This recognition is not just for both of us, but for our research team of over 300, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, statisticians and laboratory scientists. But our work is not done yet. This award spurs us to do even more to prevent and treat infectious diseases in Africa.”

The couple has worked side-by-side as spouse scientists tackling devastating diseases while overcoming scientific and political obstacles.

At considerable professional risk, they confronted Aids denial, provided life-sparing antiviral treatments in defiance of government policy and developed HIV prevention approaches that empower women to protect themselves.

They established collaborative HIV research centres, working with international partners on vaccines, immunopathogenesis research, microbicides and antiviral treatments.

They have continued their work in the Covid-19 pandemic, undertaking rapid surveillance, promoting evidence-based prevention and combating misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines.

The couple provided accurate estimations of likely future surges of the coronavirus and assisted Africa to be better prepared for pandemic pressure on its healthcare and social systems, and economies.


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