South Africa is mourning the death of a globally recognized scientist, Gita Ramjee, who lost her life to coronavirus. She was 64.
“Professor Ramjee was renowned for her work on finding HIV prevention methods that were conducive to the lifestyles, circumstances and perceived risk factors that South African women face, as well as attempts to find an effective HIV vaccine,’’ Deputy President David Mabuza said in a statement Wednesday.
“We have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic,’’ Mabuza said.
South Africa has over 7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, one of the largest caseloads in the world.
Coronavirus has claimed five lives in South Africa so far and infected 1,353 others, according to the Health Ministry.
Ramjee recently returned to South Africa from a trip to London without showing COVID-19 symptoms, but later fell sick and was admitted to a hospital in Durban on the East Coast where she died on Tuesday, according to local media reports.
Two years ago, she was internationally recognized for her expertise in the field of microbicide research, including receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for HIV Prevention and honored with the Outstanding Female Scientist award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships for work in finding new HIV prevention methods.
Tributes and condolence messages have been pouring in from across the globe where her work impacted millions.
Winnie Byanyima, head of the UNAIDS, said in a message posted on her official Twitter handle that she was “deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Gita Ramjee.’’
She said Ramjee was an eminent scientist who dedicated her life to HIV prevention for women and girls in Africa.
The Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention (AVAC) said: “Deeply saddened by the loss of an HIV prevention pioneer.”
It described Ramjee as a tireless champion of science, research, women’s reproductive health and rights.
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