Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

11 May 2012

Slim Abdool Karim: Shaking up SA’s ailing medical research

via Business Day (South Africa), by Tama Kahn

PROF Salim Abdool Karim, the newly appointed president of the Medical Research Council (MRC), sweeps into his office exuding energy and beaming from ear to ear, hardly the disposition you’d expect from someone who had less than four hours sleep the night before. His ability to thrive under pressure will stand him in good stead as he seeks to turn around an institute in the doldrums: the MRC’s international reputation has slid, its staff are demotivated, and it is chronically underfunded.

Hand-picked for the job by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Karim is used to difficult challenges. He was a political activist and medical student at the height of apartheid and went on to become one of the world’s leading HIV researchers, investigating vaginal gels to protect women from infection. His background left him unafraid to talk truth to power.

He was a member of former president Thabo Mbeki ’s scientific AIDS advisory panel, established in 2000 to answer Mbeki’s controversial questions about the disease long after the scientific community had accepted that HIV caused AIDS. He was openly critical of the dissidents who disputed this link and of the very idea that a panel could vote on matters of scientific fact. He was also on the organising committee of the Durban Declaration, a petition signed by leading scientists affirming that HIV causes AIDS to try to counter the damage done by the dissidents.

Three years ago, he co-authored a warts-and-all analysis of the many problems that beset SA’s health landscape, which was published to much acclaim in the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet. The series of papers offered a snapshot of the dismal state of healthcare in SA at the end of former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang ’s tenure, and is often quoted from by Motsoaledi.

Karim briefed the minister about The Lancet series before it was published, warning him it would not be good news.

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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