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Coronavirus: Death of Gita Ramjee, a South African HIV scientist

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Aurum Institute

Tributes are paid to world-renowned South African scientist Gita Ramjee, who died of Covid-19 complications.

“She has dedicated many years of her life to finding HIV prevention solutions for women,” her colleague and friend Gavin Churchyard told the BBC.

UNAids chief Winnie Byanyima said that Professor Ramjee’s death is a huge loss right now when the world needs her most.

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV in the world.

The country has started three-week containment as part of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“The death of Professor Ramjee is a major blow to the entire health sector and the global fight against HIV / AIDS,” said South African Vice President David Mabuza in a statement.

“With her passing, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically in the hands of this global pandemic. In her honor, we must heed the call to reverse the curve by also strengthening our responses to this pandemic and continue the struggle to achieve zero new HIV infections. “

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“I am now among giants”

Professor Ramjee, who died Tuesday at a hospital near the coastal city of Durban, had worked as a scientific director at the Aurum Institute, a dominant figure in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis.

“Gita was a dynamic person, a real fighter. If she decides to do something, you had better not disturb her,” said Professor Churchyard, head of Aurum, who had known her for many years, in Pumza BBC Fihlani.

“What I take away from her – is how she fought with all her might to improve access to health care for women in disadvantaged communities.”

The HIV researcher fell ill after returning to South Africa in mid-March from the United Kingdom, where she made a presentation at a symposium at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

She has held honorary professorship at LSHTM, as well as at the University of Washington and the University of Cape Town.

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Two years ago, she received the prize for the best female scientist from the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships.

Then she told the HIV Trials Network: “I was absolutely thrilled with this award, as it is the culmination of my decades of clinical research engagement in HIV prevention. What makes it more rewarding is that I’m now one of the giants. “

She also gave advice to young women interested in a career in science: “Love of work, passion, drive and tenacity are essential traits to have for scientific excellence.”

For Professor Churchyard: “Having an internationally recognized African scientist – really leaves us a huge void.

“But Gita firmly believed in capacity building, knowledge sharing and she did. She leaves a huge legacy behind and her work will continue.

“As a relentless fighter, relentless in her fight against HIV, against tuberculosis and now against Covid-19. The last thing she would like us to do is give up. We will not give up, we must keep going to fight and work to find solutions. “

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