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Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Quarraisha Abdool Karim: An Epidemiologist With A Scientific Breakthrough

Quarraisha Abdool Karim: An Epidemiologist With A Scientific Breakthrough

In the 1990s South Africa was hit by an HIV epidemic. Quarraisha Abdool Karim began conducting research studies to understand the spread of the virus in women as well as other risk factors that enabled the widespread. She also fought hard to make sure that women in science got access to equal opportunities in form of training.

She made a major discovery, that antiretrovirals could be able to counter the spread of HIV infection. Her discovery was one of the major scientific breakthroughs of 2010.

Let her story be an inspiration to all the young girls that want to study science and change the world! Quarraisha Abdool Karim is our Smart Girl of the day!

Early Life & Education

Quarraisha was born in the 1960s in Tongaat in South Africa. She completed both her primary and secondary school education in Tongaat. After completing her secondary school education, she enrolled at the University of Durban-Westville to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree. She eventually graduated in 1981.

Abdool later enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand, attaining a bachelor of science honors degree in Biochemistry. She moved to the United States for her master’s in Parasitology and graduated in 1988 from Columbia University. In 2000 she completed her Ph.D. in medicine at the University of Natal, South Africa.

A Career in HIV Prevention

Abdool Karim began her career focusing on HIV prevention. HIV had been an epidemic in South Africa and urgent measures were needed to stop the spread. HIV infection was becoming a problem for most adolescent girls and young women.

She made a landmark study that demonstrated for the first time that antiretrovirals could prevent HIV infection. This study made it to the top 10 scientific breakthroughs in 2010. What an inspiring woman!

Her contribution to highlighting the vulnerability of young women and the need for HIV prevention efforts in sexual reproductive health services has made her win several awards both locally and internationally. She has won The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Award for Global Health, The African Union’s Kwame Nkurumah Prize for Science and Technology among other prestigious awards.

Other Noble Works

Abdool Karim is also a leading force for equality for women in science. She has worked to improve education and training for scientists in South Africa. She has been an advocate for women in science, citing the different challenges faced by women in science. Abdool also encourages more young women to pursue a career in science. Our Smart Girl is paving the way for generations of young women to be more involved in the STEM field.

Personal Life

Quarraisha is married to a South African epidemiologist, Salim Abdool Karim. Together the couple has three children.

Abdool still continues with her research on HIV infection in South Africa. She has published a book, HIV/AIDS in South Africa with her husband and research collaborator. She is currently the UNAIDS Special ambassador for adolescents and HIV, and is the Deputy Chair of the WHO Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health. She continues to be an inspiration for women everywhere and leads by example in her work with HIV.

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Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights


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