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Obasanjo Aid Award

Two South African scientists, Salim S. Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim will receive the African Academy of Sciences’ inaugural Olusegun Obasanjo Prize for their highly acclaimed work on the use of a microbicide, called Tenofovir gel, to prevent HIV infection and genital herpes in women.

The former Nigerian President, His Excellency Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in whose name the award is made, will attend the ceremony at the African Academy of Sciences on 10 November 2011.

This award-winning breakthrough is the culmination of 17 years of microbicide research by Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim.  In 2010, this husband and wife research team demonstrated that 1% Tenofovir gel reduced HIV acquisition by 39% overall, and by 54% in women, who used the gel consistently.  Further, they showed that Tenofovir gel prevents genital herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus – 2), an incurable lifelong sexually transmitted infection which enhances the spread of HIV, by 51% in women.  The study known as CAPRISA 004 is particularly significant as it is a global first in empowering women against HIV.  Tenofovir gel, a pioneering HIV prevention strategy that women can control, is particularly important for young women, who can rarely negotiate condom use or faithfulness with their male partner.

AIDS and global health leaders have called the results “a game changer”, “a true breakthrough for AIDS prevention,” and “a significant milestone for women in the thirty year history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” The finding was ranked among the Top Ten Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010 by Science.

Tenofovir gel is set to alter the future trajectory of the HIV epidemic.  In South Africa alone, it is estimated that Tenofovir gel would avert 1.3 million new HIV infections and 800,000 AIDS deaths over the next 20 years. Once implemented on a broad scale, Tenofovir gel is set to save millions of lives and mark the turning point in global HIV epidemic.

The winners of the prize, Salim and Quarrisha Abdool Karim have made significant scientific contributions to HIV prevention and treatment. Salim S. Abdool Karim is Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Quarraisha Abdool Karim is Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA and Professor of Public Health at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at University of KwaZulu-Natal. Both scientists are also professors in Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University in New York.

The Abdool Karims have published extensively in world renowned journals including Science, Nature, Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine.  They have, individually or jointly, received numerous prestigious awards and medals, including TWAS Prize in Medical Sciences and the Gold Medal award from the South African Academy of Science.

Several other Scientific Awards will be made at this ceremony by the African Academy of Sciences, in recognition of excellence among African scientists. TWAS, a long time partner of AAS will award several prizes that will include the TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Awards, the TWAS Regional Prize on the Development of Scientific Educational Material and the TWAS-ROSSA Young Scientists Prize in Basic Sciences. In addition, TWAS will sponsor the public lecture to be presented by the Obasanjo Prize Awardees during the award ceremony.

The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) who will be celebrating their 25th and 40th anniversaries, respectively, have organized together with Academy of the Developing World Regional Office for sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS–ROSSA), a variety of scientific activities including a two-day conference on “Climate Change: the Road for Africa”.

For details see:

Awardee contact details: +27 – 31 – 2604550 (work)  or  +27 – 82 – 7769705 (cell)


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