Hoosen Coovadia, medical force in the fight against HIV in South Africa, dies at 83 | ET REALITY


“It took weeks to rebuild the walls,” said his daughter Anuschka, “and during that time, my father’s medical students came on a schedule, protected the house with sticks and brooms, and sat outside all night. “There was a lot of love from their community of students.”

In addition to his son and daughter, he is survived by his wife and five grandchildren.

Dr. Coovadia wrote a textbook on children’s health now in its seventh edition, mentored dozens of students and researchers, many of whom became health ministers and key global health figures, and led carried out pioneering work on measles and pediatric kidney disorders. He advised successive South African governments in various capacities, including a position on the powerful National Planning Commission; he directed international research projects; published widely in scientific journals; and received awards, including the Star of South Africa, the country’s highest honour, presented by President Nelson Mandela.

But it was his work on HIV that perhaps had the greatest impact on global politics and which led him into an unexpectedly vicious political battle.

In the late 1980s, he began seeing babies with HIV arriving at the hospital, prompting him to begin researching ways to stop transmission of the virus from mothers to children. “He considered it another form of oppression for these women, who were black, poor, often rural, and also had HIV,” said Salim Abdool Karim, a leading global authority on HIV and a former student of Dr. Coovadia. .

In the 1990s, the World Health Organization recommended that women with HIV feed their children baby formula instead of breast milk, which could transmit the virus. But Dr. Coovadia suspected (and later demonstrated in a series of studies) that the risk was minimal in exclusively breastfed babies and that the health benefits for babies whose mothers did not have access to clean water to mix formula outweighed the risk by far. of HIV

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