The medical field was left with a sorrowful, gaping hole following the death of top HIV scientist, Professor Gita Ramjee due to the deadly coronavirus. She had dedicated the entirety of her life to the fighting and prevention of HIV and was renowned worldwide in medical and scientific circles because of her stellar work.
Professor Gita Ramjee died in a hospital near Durban on 31 March 2020. Before her death, she was working as a chief scientific officer at the Aurum Institute, which is a leading authority in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Professor Ramjee fell ill after she returned from a London trip in mid-March where she was making her presentation at a symposium at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). She presented about HIV infection and common risk factors for HIV. She had also spent time with her son and grandsons who live in London.
Tributes poured in for the brilliant Professor, as attending her funeral is impossible due to the lockdown in South Africa. South Africa is in the middle of a 21-day lockdown in efforts to reduce the spread of the deadly virus.
David Mabuza, deputy president of South Africa, sent his condolence message. “The passing of Prof Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/Aids.”
“In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic. In her honor, we should heed the call to flatten the curve by strengthening our responses to this global pandemic as well as continue the fight to achieve zero new HIV infections.”
Peter Godfrey-Faussett who is the Senior Science Adviser at UNAIDS wrote, “Her career as a strong leader of research on HIV prevention, specifically on women, particularly underprivileged women and sex-workers, has brought her global acclaim—lifetime scientific awards for excellence from South Africa, and Outstanding Female Scientist Award from the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships, honorary degrees. To me, she was always a friendly face and someone to meet and talk to, not only about the science, but also about our sons and grandsons, London, Durban and beyond.”
She was a shining star as far as HIV research was concerned. At the symposium, she focused on the new infections of HIV in South Africa and how they mostly affected women. She presented her research covered “targeted intervention to stem the epidemic of HIV, with geo-mapping and gathering data on overlapping sexually transmitted diseases, and right down to towns where women are most vulnerable to HIV.”
The deadly wave of the coronavirus seems to be unrelenting as the world is fighting this lethal virus. The future of doctors and other medical researchers is now uncertain since these are the people at the frontline of fighting the virus. The shocking death of Professor Ramjee is an ugly reminder of how deadly the coronavirus is. She was a brilliant mind, and there is now a lot to cover in the fight against HIV. The battles have multiplied – both HIV and Coronavirus.
A thought goes for all in the medical field – the ones who fight to ensure people have good health. Professor Ramjee has become an early casualty of the coronavirus pandemic and her legacy will not die as she was truly devoted to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Professor Churchyard, the head at Aurum, said that Professor Ramjee was unrelenting in fighting these deadly diseases.
“To have an African scientist, who is internationally recognized pass - really leaves a huge void for us. But Gita firmly believed in building capacity, in sharing knowledge and she did that. She leaves a tremendous legacy behind her and her work will continue.”
“As an unrelenting fighter, unrelenting in her fight against HIV, against tuberculosis and now Covid-19. The last thing she would want us to do is to give up. We won't give up, we must keep fighting and working to find solutions.”
As the world is fighting COVID-19 pandemic, the safety, welfare, and future of medical personnel must be highly valued too.