Tributes have poured in for award-winning scientist Professor Gita Ramjee, who passed away on Tuesday in an Umhlanga hospital in KZN, South Africa, from the novel Coronavirus COVID-19.
According to local reports, Prof Ramjee had complications arising from asthma and pneumonia.
Her sister Asmita Parashar, who is based in India, said on Twitter: “My sister, the brilliant Professor Gita Ramjee.. I am absolutely and completely heartbroken…”
She tweeted: “The most heartbreaking thing when a friend or relative is hospitalized with #COVIDー19, is that they are completely alone till the end. No one to visit, take care, give them a hug or hold their hand in their hour of need. That is what is most tragic. It’s the cruelest disease.”
South Africa’s National AIDS Council (SANAC) Chairperson and Deputy President, David Mabuza, conveyed condolences saying: “The passing of Professor 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.
World renowned Professor Ramjee was the former Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) HIV Prevention Research Unit.
At the time of her passing, Ramjee was Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute. The Institute said it was “deeply saddened” and Group CEO Prof Gavin Churchyard added: “The Aurum Institute and the global HIV research community will mourn Gita Ramjee’s passing and celebrate the huge contribution to the response to HIV she made in her life.”
Professor Ramjee, who was nearly 50 according to reports, was renowned for her work on finding HIV prevention methods that were conducive to the lifestyles, circumstances and perceived risk factors that South African women face as well as in the attempts to find an effective HIV vaccine, said SA Gov News.
Her sister had shared tweets in the days leading up to Prof Ramjee’s death.
On 25 March, she said: “The impact of the #coronavirus really only hits you when someone close and dear to you is struck with it. Until then, you go on believing it’s a distant reality.. #corona”
Two days later she tweeted: “Dettol please… I have no use for diamonds.”
Yesterday she posted the sad news saying how “completely shattered and heartbroken” the family is.
Early this evening she wrote: “Come back right now… I can’t breathe!”
Prof Ramjee grew up in Uganda and India before marrying a South African and moving to Durban.
Internationally recognised for her expertise in the field of microbicide research, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award for HIV Prevention.
Ramjee was also honoured with the Outstanding Female Scientist Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships for her life’s work that has focused on finding new HIV prevention methods.
Additionally, Professor Ramjee was a reviewer and editor of several scientific journals and a member of a number local and international committees and advisory groups, including the Academy of Science of South Africa and SANAC.
SA’s Deputy President said: “We would like to convey our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Professor Ramjee as well as to the medical research community. May her soul rest in peace.”
In honour of Professor Ramjee, the Deputy President appealed to all South Africans to adhere to the regulations of the 21-day lockdown to ensure the spread of COVID-19 is halted and the battle against the virus is won.
“In her honour, 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,” he said.
Sources – SAnews.gov.za, Twitter, Aurum Institute
My sister, the brilliant Professor Gita Ramjee.. I am absolutely and completely heartbroken.. https://t.co/UBjFV4WC5n
— Asmita Parashar (@AsmitaParashar) March 31, 2020