South Africa, Durban – Professors Salim Abdool Karim and his wife, Quarraisha, have been hailed by Bill Gates, a philanthropist and the founder of Microsoft.
The Abdool Karims, both aged 60, are internationally renowned for their work at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) and their contribution to Covid-19 research.
Salim, an infectious diseases specialist, was chosen to lead a 45-person ministerial advisory committee – to guide the South African government’s response to the pandemic.
Quarraisha is an associate scientific director at Caprisa and a professor in clinical epidemiology at Columbia University in the US. She is also on the advisory committee for Covid-19.
On his blog, under the banner, Heroes in the Field, Gates said the couple had revolutionised the fight against Aids and were helping the world tackle Covid-19. He said they were two of the most respected HIV/Aids researchers in the world and that they shaped the world’s response to the pandemic.
“Drawing on their experiences from HIV and TB, they are helping guide the Covid-19 response in South Africa and around the world. It is a shame that they haven’t been able to focus on HIV/Aids, but on the other hand, it is a reminder of how fighting old diseases like HIV helps the world prepare for new ones like Covid-19.”
Gates said investing long-term in programmes like Caprisa, or work on polio or malaria, not only prevented deaths and disability from specific diseases, it also strengthened the overall field of global health.
“So when a pandemic comes along, we have a network of experts like Quarraisha and Salim ready to pitch in.”
Gates said it was striking to him at how upbeat the couple was in the face of devastating diseases such as the coronavirus and HIV.
“Their motto at Caprisa is, ‘Each day that you come to work, you should be looking for how today is going to be better than yesterday’. That is a lesson we can all take to heart.”
Salim said his daughter called him to tell him about the heroes list that was released on World Aids Day.
“He is a man who is very busy and doing so much. To take the time to acknowledge us was a wonderful accolade. We recognise that many people are doing really important work and we have ourselves been part of huge teams that are doing the research. Although the recognition was allotted to us, it also lends to the people who collaborate with us.”