Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Gita Ramjee, a world-renowned HIV scientist and researcher who has led groundbreaking work in HIV prevention. We express our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Professor Ramjee, who passed away in hospital because of health complications related to COVID-19. She recently returned from the United Kingdom.
Professor Ramjee was a Chief Specialist Scientist and had been the Director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit (HPRU). She joined the SAMRC in 1996. Under her leadership at the SAMRC Professor Ramjee’s KwaZulu-Natal based team hosts five of 20 HIV Vaccine Trial Network sites across the country as a part of a global scientific journey to find an effective HIV vaccine. The team is also testing a novel long acting injectable for the prevention of HIV in three communities across the greater Durban area.
“We are still in mourning; Gita was fundamental and inextricably linked to the endevours to find solutions to prevent HIV in women. She was tireless in this pursuit, her tenacity will never be forgotten,” said Prof Glenda Gray SAMRC President and CEO.
“I have tremendous respect for her contributions and passion to find solutions for HIV prevention in South Africa, we have worked so hard towards this and are saddened to have lost someone so soon on this journey, my thoughts go out to her family and friends,” added Gray.
Ramjee’s passing is an enormous loss to the medical fraternity, she was a true trailblazer who has contributed substantially to HIV prevention research work in women globally and in South Africa among communities in the greater Durban region. Ramjee held Honorary Professorships at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Washington in Seattle and University of Cape Town. She specialised in integrated HIV prevention and treatment research and care programmes focusing on women in KwaZulu-Natal.
She was the recipient of many national and international awards for her research including the “Outstanding Female Scientist” Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships (EDCTP) in Lisbon, Portugal, alongside other global academic giants. The Award was in recognition of her life’s work and dedication to finding new HIV prevention methods, which are conducive to the lifestyles and circumstances of women in South Africa. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Microbicide Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2012 and the SAMRC Scientific Merit Award 2017 Gold Medal.
“A pioneer in the field of HIV prevention among high risk populations, Professor Ramjee’s passing is a tragic loss. Her devotion and contribution in the field is known globally,” said Professor Nana Poku, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Ramjee a UKZN alumnus was a NIH funded Clinical Trials Unit Principal Investigator with a vast portfolio of phase I and II HIV prevention treatment clinical trials experience, she led HPRU’s mission in uncovering the factors contributing to HIV infection vulnerability through extensive collaborations and prolific grant income generation of over a billion rand in her tenure at the SAMRC.
On behalf of the SAMRC, we are saddened by the tragic loss of a well-respected scientist and esteemed colleague.
May her soul rest in peace and may her loved ones find healing during this difficult time.
Dr Alfred Thutloa
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