VinFuture Prize Laureates

Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim
Innovators from Developing countries | 2021

Affiliation at the time of the award: Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine University of KwaZulu-Natal & Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Ph.D., is an infectious disease epidemiologist whose primary research focuses on understanding the evolving HIV epidemic in South Africa and preventing HIV in women.

She is Scientific Director of CAPRISA and Pro-Vice Chancellor for African Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. She is also a Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA.

Between 1998 and 2016, she played a central role in building the science base in southern Africa through the Columbia University – Southern African Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Programme, which has trained over 600 scientists in southern Africa.

Professor Abdool Karim has over 300 peer-reviewed publications and has authored several books and book chapters.

Professor Abdool Karim is currently co-chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 group on Technology Facilitation and is a member of the Executive Group for the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity Therapeutics and Vaccine Clinical Trials

She is a Fellow of The World Academy of Science; African Academy of Science; Academy of Science of South Africa, Royal Society of South Africa, and elected Member of the US National Academy of Medicine.


The Abdool Karims led a landmark clinical trial that provided the initial evidence in 2010 that antiretrovirals prevent sexual transmission of HIV. They demonstrated that tenofovir gel prevents HIV infection and genital herpes in women. Their research provided proof-of-concept that tenofovir can prevent HIV infection, thereby laying the foundations for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV prevention approach.

In 2015, the WHO recommended PrEP with daily oral tenofovir as a standard HIV prevention measure for those at high HIV risk. PrEP is now available in many countries worldwide, contributing to HIV prevention globally. Reducing new HIV infections in women not only obviates their need for antiretroviral treatment, but it also reduces the risk of HIV in their newborn babies


Young women have the highest rates of HIV in Africa, which has 70% of the global HIV burden. Preventing HIV infection in young women is key to breaking the Cycle of HIV Transmission, which drives high rates of HIV in Africa.

These discoveries stand out in their impact on HIV prevention across the world, especially in developing countries