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Coronavirus claims life of renowned HIV scientist

Gita Ramjee is one of South Africa’s first fatalities from Covid-19

Gita Ramjee, a Durban-based HIV researcher, has become one of the first people in South Africa to succumb to Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus circling the globe. 

Uganda-born Ramjee lived in India and the United Kingdom before moving to South Africa, where she became one of the country’s leading HIV prevention scientists. She participated in and led many of South Africa’s microbicide trials that tested HIV prevention options for women.  

Ramjee had worked for many years at the South African Medical Research Council, as a scientist, then as division head, and then director of the SAMRC’s HIV prevention research unit. She was a National Research Foundation B-rated scientist with multiple accolades to her name. 

Most recently Ramjee worked as the Chief Scientific Officer for HIV Prevention at the Aurum Institute, a Johannesburg-based healthcare organisation.

“The world has lost a bold and compassionate leader in the response to HIV,” said Gavin Churchyard, group CEO of the Aurum institute, in a statement. “Her groundbreaking research in HIV prevention contributed to the global response to HIV and Aids.”

“Her passing is an immense loss and has left an indelible void in HIV research and treatment, particularly on the African continent,” said Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Durban-based Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa. 

“This is a heavy loss to the global scientific community. We extend our sincere condolences to her family,” said Michael Makanga, chief executive officer of the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.