IAS – the International AIDS Society – mourns the death of IAS Member Hoosen Jerry Coovadia, who served as Co-Chair of AIDS 2000, the 13th International AIDS Conference, in Durban, South Africa. Widely recognized for his work on prevention of perinatal transmission of HIV, Professor Coovadia passed away on 4 October 2023.
“Jerry Coovadia was a pioneer who laid the foundation for the strong HIV response that we have today,” IAS President Sharon Lewin said. “He was instrumental in bringing antiretroviral treatment to thousands of people in South Africa at a time when there was great resistance to doing so. Most notably, with his team, he challenged and changed the thinking that people living with HIV should not breastfeed their babies.”
Professor Coovadia was a member of the IAS Governing Council from 2000 to 2008. As AIDS 2000 Co-Chair, he was pivotal in the preparation of the Durban Declaration, signed by more than 5,000 scientists, affirming that HIV causes AIDS. Then South African President Thabo Mbeki had stated that “a virus cannot cause a syndrome”, and his government refused to provide ARVs to people living with HIV. Professor Coovadia’s and others’ efforts fuelled the activism that eventually saw the government rolling out treatment.
Some of the roles that he has filled are Victor Daitz Professor emeritus at University of KwaZulu-Natal in HIV/AIDS Research and International Vice-Chair of the Paediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (IMPAACT). His honours include receiving the 2013 AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, the 1999 Star of South Africa Award from then President Nelson Mandela, and the 2000 Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.
The IAS offers its sincerest condolences to Professor Coovadia’s family and friends.