How Epidemiology and Prevention in Young Women Can Achieve an AIDS-free Generation

The war against AIDS is fought on many fronts. Whether it is raising awareness about safe sex, developing preventive measures or working with patients in hospitals, on a vaccine or a cure: tackling the largest HIV epidemic in the world (with an estimated 6.2 million people affected in South Africa) demands dedication, ingenuity and endurance. Thankfully, the South African epidemiologist, Quarraisha Abdool Karim possesses an abundance of these traits which helped her make huge advances in highlighting the vulnerability of adolescent girls and young women and developing novel strategies to prevent HIV infection and reduce AIDS related deaths. Her institution, CAPRISA, a UNAIDS Collaborating Center for HIV Research and Policy in Durban, is involved in a wide range of activities – from developing vaccines to behavioural studies on HIV transmission – all with the goal to get a grip on South Africa’s AIDS epidemic through preventing infection in young women. By studying the evolving epidemic; social drivers of the epidemic and demonstrating the preventive benefit of anti-retrovirals in HIV uninfected women, Quarraisha and her team have made substantial contributions to preventing new HIV infections. Their research produced the world’s first women initiated HIV prevention technology and was ranked among the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010 in Science magazine. For her outstanding work, Quarraisha was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the order of Order of Mapungubwe, the pinnacle World Academy of Science TWAS-Lenovo Award, and the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO Laureate Award for Women in Science. At Falling Walls, she shows the central importance of HIV prevention in young women to alter the current global epidemic trajectories and the momentous contribution that innovative science and medical technology can make to disease prevention and global health.

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