The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has awarded Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa associate director Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, as well as University of the Free State vice-chancellor and rector and South African Institute of Race Relations director Professor Jonathan Jansen its yearly ASSAf Science-for-Society gold medals for outstanding achievements in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.
Karim, who is also a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, was awarded for her “ground-breaking” AIDS research, advocacy and leadership, which ASSAf said had had a profound impact on HIV prevention science, policy and programmes.
In addition to providing the first evidence that antiretroviral drugs prevented the sexual transmission of HIV in women, she had made seminal contributions in depicting the evolving HIV epidemic over the last 25 years, quantifying its impact on young women and leading the first post-democracy government's AIDS response in South Africa.
Jansen, meanwhile, was an acclaimed author, whose 2009 book ‘Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past’ was listed as one of the best books of that year by the American Libraries Association.
His new book, ‘Schools that Work’, used video documentaries to capture what happened inside disadvantaged schools that nonetheless produced the best results in physical science and mathematics in South Africa.
In 2013, he was awarded the Education Africa Lifetime Achiever Award, in New York, and the Spendlove Award from the University of California for his contributions to tolerance, democracy and human rights.
In addition to the recognition of Jansen and Karim at the award ceremony on Monday night, two young scientists were also recognised for outstanding achievement by the African Union–The World Academy of Sciences award scheme, which aimed to recognise and award talented young scientists in Africa.
The prize in Life and Earth Sciences was awarded to Dr Keren Middelkoop, from the University of Cape Town, while Professor De Wet Swanepoel, from the University of Pretoria, received the prize for Basic Science, Technology and Innovation.
ASSAf also inaugurated 23 new members on Monday, increasing its membership to 445 top scientific scholars.