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1st ARUA Distinguished Public Lecture: AIDS and Covid-19: A tale of two pandemics

3rd July 2023

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) in collaboration with the University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to the 1st ARUA Distinguished Public Lecture.

Date: September 14, 2023
Time: 5:00 pm (SAST)
Venue: Future Africa, Hillcrest Campus, University of Pretoria & Online
Registration Link:

Theme: “AIDS and Covid-19: A tale of two pandemics”
Speaker: Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim (FRS). Director, CAPRISA & Professor of Global Health, Columbia University

The two most challenging pandemics of the last 40 years provide valuable epidemiological lessons as the world prepares for the next pandemics. The relationship between cause and effect or intervention and effect have been challenging to unravel in the two pandemics, though the challenges have differed. This presentation will focus on the causes and interventions for the high HIV risk in young women as well as on the effects of variants in Covid-19. 

In the HIV pandemic, about 70% of all new infections occur in Africa, where the highest incidence rates are in young girls. Identifying the behavioural and biological factors driving the risk of HIV in young women has taken decades. In parallel, research and development of cause-agnostic interventions to slow down infections in young women continued apace leading to the discovery that antiretrovirals prevent sexual HIV transmission. But the adherence challenges in implementing this intervention as a prevention strategy has complicated the assessment of their effectiveness and spurred development of long-acting formulations.

The research experience and capacity developed for the HIV response in Africa, were key to responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in developing the understanding of each new variant of concern drove each new wave. Interventions that were variant-agnostic became increasingly important.

The key lessons from both pandemics include the importance of taking heed of warning signs, the timeous scientific evidence to facilitate informed decision-making and the central importance of global solidarity and humanity’s mutual interdependence.

About the speaker

Prof. Salim S. Abdool Karim, FRS, is a South African clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist widely recognized for scientific contributions and leadership in AIDS and COVID-19.

He is Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Durban, and Professor of Global Health at Columbia University, New York. In 2022, he was appointed as Special Advisor on pandemics to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation.

He is an adjunct Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard University, an adjunct Professor of Medicine at Cornell University and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He previously served as President of the South African Medical Research Council.

He is a member of the WHO Science Council and Vice-President of the International Science Council. He serves on the Boards of the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Global Health and Lancet HIV. He is member of the US National Academy of Medicine and is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).