The Kirby Institute mourns the loss of Professor Gita Ramjee, a global leader in HIV prevention research, who has died from COVID-19 complications in Durban, South Africa.
Gita was passionate about finding new methods for HIV prevention that could be women-controlled, as South Africa confronted the largest HIV epidemic in the world. She played a central role in the Microbicides Trials Network from its establishment in 2006, leading investigations in this area over two decades. Gita received a lifetime achievement award at the Microbicides Conference in Sydney in 2012.
She was a wonderful colleague and friend to many of us at the Kirby Institute. We worked alongside her on the multinational SPARTAC trial that was one of the first to investigate giving antiretroviral therapy in the early stages of HIV infection.
“Gita was a true leader in HIV prevention globally,” says Scientia Professor John Kaldor, who first met Gita in the early 2000s. “She was dedicated, innovative, and determined to help those who are most vulnerable. She will be missed by us all.”
She also established an enduring research partnership with one of our senior biostatisticians, Associate Professor Handan Wand, that led to regular exchanges between Durban and Sydney, and over 40 scientific publications.
Most recently, Gita worked at health care organisation Aurum Institute, which is regarded as a global authority on HIV and TB prevention and eradication. She was also Chief Specialist Scientist and the Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s HIV prevention programme, and an honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Washington and the University of Cape Town.
Two years ago she was given the Outstanding Female Scientist Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships. It is an honour that she told the HIV Trials Network at the time reflected both her personal and professional commitments: "I was absolutely thrilled by this award, as it recognises decades of my commitment to clinical research activities in HIV prevention. What makes it more rewarding is that I now stand among the female giants."
Over the past three months we have all been affected in multiple personal and professional ways by the global COVID-19 pandemic. This news has brought it home particularly strongly for us, as we reflect on the many friends we have made all over the world through our collaborations and partnerships in infectious diseases, and join the fight against the new pandemic. We extend our deepest sympathies to Gita’s family and friends.