Quarraisha Abdool Karim completed a Higher Diploma in Education through Unisa in 1986. In 2011, she received the Unisa Chancellor’s Calabash Award for Outstanding Educator for her work in combating HIV/AIDS.


“There was a stunned silence and then a roar. I saw people crying. It … had been so long in coming,” recalled Abdool Karim’s husband and co-researcher Salim, describing the reaction to the findings they presented at Vienna’s 2010 International AIDS Conference. They had followed 889 HIV-vulnerable women over nearly three years, testing an antiretroviral gel that would halve HIV and herpes transmission. Their invention was hailed as one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs in 2010 by the journal Science. Abdool Karim completed her MSc at Columbia University and her PhD at the University of Natal. She is Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia and Associate Scientific Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). She has served various international organisations, and among her many prestigious awards is the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa’s highest honour, recognising her “deep commitment to human rights, equity and access to health care”.