SA scientist to head new UNAids panel

5 June 2013

South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim has been appointed chair of the newly established UNAids Scientific Expert Panel, which will advise on scientific discoveries and strategic needs in Aids research.

Karim has conducted research on HIV epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention and treatment over the past 25 years and holds academic appointments at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and at Columbia University in New York.

He is also director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, as well as the interim president of the South African Medical Research Council.

“In the 30 years since HIV was identified, the progress made by science has been extraordinary and its benefits have been felt far beyond those directly affected by HIV,” UNAids executive director Michel Sidibe said at a UNAids Scientific Symposium in Durban on Monday.

“To reach the end of the Aids epidemic, we need to continue to embrace science and innovation and I am delighted that Professor Karim has agreed to take on the leadership of our new UNAids scientific panel.”

The panel’s functions will include convening international scientific consultations to facilitate knowledge sharing and advising UNAids on how it can adjust its policies to best shape global Aids response.

The symposium hosted in Durban was the first of these consultations and was held under the theme “Scientific advances from the ‘Mississippi baby’: Implications for public health programmes on mother to child transmission of HIV”.

Experts discussed ways to improve early diagnosis of HIV in new-born children and implications of starting them on antiretroviral therapy early, and the insight gained will be passed on from the panel to UNAids to aid future solutions.

“Science has the power to illuminate the future path to defeating Aids,” Karim said. “I am humbled by this appointment and look forward to this new challenge.”

Part of the challenge will also involve analysing the relevance of new research and findings and how these can be rapidly implemented to prevent new infections and improve the lives of people living with HIV.

SAinfo reporter