Top HIV scientist dies from coronavirus in ‘huge blow’ to the global fight against HIV/AIDS
Professor Gita Ramjee, a highly acclaimed scientist who dedicated her life to fighting and preventing HIV, has sadly died of coronavirus.
Ramjee, 64, was a South African researcher internationally renowned for her work expanding disadvantaged women’s access to HIV treatment.
On March 31 she tragically passed away from coronavirus complications, having just returned from a symposium in the UK. She was working on trials for a gel that could potentially reduce HIV infection.
“The passing of professor Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/AIDS,” the deputy president of South Africa, David Mabuza, said in a statement.
“In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic.
“In her honour, we should heed the call to flatten the curve by strengthening our responses to this global pandemic as well as continue the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections.”
Deeply saddened by the loss of an #HIVprevention pioneer, Gita Ramjee. She was a tireless champion of science, research, women’s reproductive health and rights — and may we all build on her legacy and make her calling, her dream a reality pic.twitter.com/vqFlpdcIpJ
— AVAC (@HIVpxresearch) March 31, 2020
Ramjee held an honorary professorship at the the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as the University of Washington and the University of Cape Town.
In 2018 she was awarded the Outstanding Female Scientist award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership in recognition of her work on HIV prevention, notably the field of microbicide research.
The international scientific community are now paying tribute, with the head of UNAids Winnie Byanyima describing her death as “a huge loss” at a time when the world needed her most.
“Gita was a vibrant person, a real fighter,” her colleague, professor Gavin Churchyard, told the BBC. “If she sets her mind on something, nobody better stand in her way.
“That will be my lasting memory of her – how she fought with everything to advance access to healthcare for women in disadvantaged communities.”
Many other scientists and researchers took to Twitter to share their grief at her passing.
Gutted. A kind person, a stellar vaccine scientist, a “towering HIV prevention research leader,” someone who dedicated her life to ending the HIV pandemic, has died of Covid-19. Prof. Gita Ramjee was Chief Specialist Scientist + Director of the South African Medical Research… pic.twitter.com/SNiACexmSq
— Dr. Seema Yasmin (@DoctorYasmin) March 31, 2020
Covid-19 has robbed South Africa of a towering HIV researcher and globally renowned scholar.
— Suntosh Pillay (@suntoshpillay) March 31, 2020
RIP Gita Ramjee – your contributions to the field of HIV prevention and treatment will never be forgotten:(
— Heidi Jones (@HeidiJones_Epi) March 31, 2020
Professor Gita Ramjee’s passing is an immense loss and has left an indelible
void in HIV research and treatment, particularly on the African continent. On behalf of @CAPRISAOfficial I extend our heartfelt condolences to her family. Salim S Abdool Karim pic.twitter.com/yIahu58Ruz
— CAPRISA (@CAPRISAOfficial) April 1, 2020
Professor Gita Ramjee has died of Coronavirus.
She was Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the South African Medical Research on HIV Prevention. Former winner of “Outstanding Female Scientist”.
She’s well respected all across the world of science. This is a black day. pic.twitter.com/mqSQhlWgYk
— #OurFavOnlineDoc 🛂 (@DrOlufunmilayo) March 31, 2020
Absolutely overwhelmed with the beautiful messages of love and support which continue to pour in from around world for my sister, Prof. Gita Ramjee. Knowing how much she was loved and admired has been a real comfort at this very difficult time. Thank you!! #GitaRamjee pic.twitter.com/XXWbEBE2L5
— Asmita Parashar (@AsmitaParashar) April 2, 2020