Coronavirus: Top South African HIV scientist Gita Ramjee dies

Gita Ramjee
Gita Ramjee

Tributes are being paid to world-renowned South African scientist Gita Ramjee, who has died from Covid-19-related complications.

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

Head of UNAids Winnie Byanyima said Prof Ramjee’s passing was a gigantic misfortune when the world required her most.

South Africa has the biggest number of individuals living with HIV on the planet.

The nation has started a three-week lockdown as a major aspect of endeavors to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“The passing of Prof Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/Aids,” the country’s Deputy President 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 honor, 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.”

‘I now stand among female giants’

Prof Ramjee, who kicked the bucket in medical clinic close to the seaside city of Durban on Tuesday, had been filling in as the boss logical official at the Aurum Institute, the main expert in the battle against HIV and TB.

“Gita was a vibrant person, a real fighter. If she sets her mind on something, nobody better stand in her way,” Aurum head Prof Churchyard, who knew her for many years, told the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani.

“That will be my lasting memory of her – how she fought with everything to advance access to healthcare for women in disadvantaged communities.”

The HIV scientist became sick in the wake of coming back to South Africa in mid-March from the UK, where she had been introducing at a symposium at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

She held a privileged residency at the LSHTM, just as at the University of Washington and the University of Cape Town.

Two years back she was given the Outstanding Female Scientist Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships.

A while later she told the HIV Trials Network: “I was completely excited by this honor, as it perceives many years of my responsibility to clinical research exercises in HIV avoidance. Makes it all the more compensating that I currently remain among the female goliaths.”

She additionally talked about her pride in having two effective children and a fruitful spouse – and her guidance for more youthful ladies inspired by a vocation in science: “Love of the job, passion, drive, and tenacity are critical traits to have for scientific excellence.”

Prof Churchyard said Prof Ramjee would be greatly missed: “To have an African scientist, who is internationally recognized pass – really leaves a huge void for us.

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

“As an unrelenting fighter, unrelenting in her fight against HIV, against tuberculosis and now Covid-19. The last thing she would want us to do is to give up. We won’t give up, we must keep fighting and working to find solutions.”

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