By Akeem Abas
Madrid – Prof. Linder-Gail Bekker, an HIV researcher from Cape Town, South Africa has been announced as the recipient of the 2018 Desmond Tutu Award for HIV Prevention Research and Human Rights.
This is contained in a statement signed by Mark Aurigemma, Media Manager, HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P 2018), made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday.
Bekker, a professor of medicine at University of Cape Town and immediate past president of International AIDS Society, is an HIV researcher, physician and community advocate.
The announcement of Bekker as the 2018 recipient of the award was made by Mike Chirenje and Susan Buchbinder, Co-Chairs of HIVR4P in Madrid, Spain.
Chirenje, a Co-Chair of HIVR4P 2018 Conference from University of Zimbabwe, described Bekker as a tireless and innovative leader in the efforts to ensure effective HIV prevention for all.
“Bekker’s fearless advocacy and personalised models of care have saved lives and helped to break down barriers of stigma and discrimination in HIV prevention.
“She has advanced efforts to integrate the diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV and tuberculosis, the leading global killer of people living with HIV,” Chirenje said.
Chirenje said that Bekker co-led international research studies to develop innovative new HIV prevention methods including HIV vaccines, vaginal rings for HIV prevention and oral and injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
“Bekker recently used her position as international scientific chair of the AIDS 2018 conference to speak on a global stage in support of increased financial and political support for HIV prevention research.
“The mobile `Tutu Testers’ she has championed brought voluntary HIV testing, counselling and information to communities throughout South Africa.
“Her famous user-friendly clinics offer models of services that engaged and welcome all, including young women and girls, men who have sex with men and others traditionally overlooked by healthcare systems.”
He said that Bekker had effectively used her positions and clinics in the impoverished Masiphumelele and New Crossroads townships of Cape Town.
Buchbinder, HIVR4P Co-Chair from San Francisco Department of Public Health, also acknowledged Bekker’s roles in HIV research and prevention as well as advocacy.
“Bekker reminds us every day that the goals of stopping HIV and protecting the rights of everyone affected by the epidemic are inextricably linked.
“Her belief in the dignity of all people is the key to her effectiveness – whether she is holding political leaders to account in international policy-making forums or working one-on-one with patients in the clinic,” Buchbinder said.
In her response, Bekker said she was delighted to follow in the footsteps of wonderful people like Tutu and Ambassador Deborah Birx, who were former recipients.
“This award reminds us that, ultimately, all the work we do is to improve the lives and wellbeing of men, women and young people – fellow human beings everywhere – and that is what really matters.
“I am delighted and hugely honoured to accept this award,” she said.
Bekker would be formally presented with the award at the opening of HIVR4P conference on Oct. 22, in Madrid.
NAN reports that the award is named after South African cleric, Desmond Tutu, a leading global advocate for HIV prevention and dignity of all people.
It is presented every two years to an individual or organisation that has worked in an outstanding manner to advance both HIV prevention research and the human rights of people affected by HIV.