June 2021 marked the 40th anniversary since the first cases of the HIV virus were reported. Four decades on, major progress has been made in testing, treating, and preventing the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus. Given that South Africa is said to have the largest antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme globally, some observations have been made that the use of ARVs has turned HIV into a manageable chronic condition. However, a number of questions remain. Why is it that the country remains the “epicentre of the HIV/AIDS pandemic”? What are the factors that led to South Africa continuing to have a relatively high prevalence of people living with HIV/AIDS? What is the latest with regards to development of a vaccine and possibly a cure? How far is the vision of ‘the end of AIDS’? The National Research Foundation (NRF) invites you to this special World AIDS Day virtual lecture as we explore answers to the questions raised above.


Professor Linda-Gail Bekker

Professor of Medicine and Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town

Linda-Gail Bekker is a physician scientist and infectious disease specialist with a passion for community and public health. She is the Director and co-founder of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre; the CEO of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation; and a Full Professor at the University of Cape Town. She is also a past President of the International AIDS Society. She completed her undergraduate degree and PhD at UCT. Her early research focused on antiretroviral rollout and TB integration and, since 2005, it included biomedical and behavioural HIV prevention among vulnerable populations, specifically adolescents and MSM. Her accolades include, among others, the Ubuntu Award for Social Responsibility and a Gold Medal from the SA Academy of Sciences (2019). Prof Bekker has reviewed for numerous journals, including the Lancet, Science, and PLOS. Over the last eight years, she has published 325 peer-reviewed articles and delivered 37 keynote addresses.

Professor Sanyu Mojola

Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and Director of the Office of Population Research, Princeton University

Sanyu A Mojola is Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs; the Maurice P During Professor of Demographic Studies; and the Director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. She is also an Honorary Professor at the Medical Research Council/WITS Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago and was previously on the faculties of the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado Boulder. Her award-winning mixed methods research examines how societies produce health and illness. She is especially interested in how gender, race/ethnicity, aging and the life course and socio-economic status shape health outcomes. Her past and ongoing work primarily focuses on the HIV/AIDS pandemic as it unfolds in various settings such as Kenya (see her book Love, Money and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS), the United States and South Africa (see the project website: https://hivafter40.princeton.edu/). She has served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Sociology, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Studies in Family Planning, and is currently serving on the editorial committee of the journal Population and Development Review. Her website is: https://scholar.princeton.edu/smojola  

Professor Penny Moore

DSI-NRF South African Research Chair of Virus-Host Dynamics, University of the Witwatersrand and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

Penny Moore is the South African Research Chair of Virus-Host Dynamics, Research Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Director of the Antibody Immunity Research Unit, an extramural unit of the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC). She holds a joint appointment as Honorary Senior Scientist in Virus-Host Dynamics at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research (CAPRISA), University of Kwazulu-Natal and is Adjunct Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) at the University of Cape Town. She directs a team of more than 15 scientists and 10 postgraduate students who work in the field of HIV and SARS-CoV-2 vaccine discovery, combining Virology, Immunology and Bioinformatics. Her research is funded by the NIH, the SA Medical Research Council, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the SA National Research Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the past 18 years, she has contributed towards more than 140 papers, focusing predominantly on HIV and SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies and their interplay with the evolving virus, a result of extensive collaborations within South Africa and internationally. She has an H-factor of 41 and holds a NRF B1 rating.  She has a very strong focus on mentorship and capacity development and supervises several postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows within her lab and across other institutes.

Ms Zakithi Mkhize

PhD Candidate in Virology at the HIV Pathogenesis Program, University of Kwa Zulu Natal and PhD fellow at SANTHE

Zakithi Mkhize is currently pursuing her Doctoral studies in Medicine (Virology) at the HIV Pathogenesis Program (HPP) at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is also a PhD Fellow at the Sub-Saharan African Network for HIV/TB Research Excellence (SANTHE).  Alongside her passion for science and science communication, she also is a youth STEM activist.  She is currently using her social media platforms to encourage young people to take up space in STEM careers.  Her YouTube channel, BlackGirlScientist, has over 40k views and she uses this platform to share her journey through the science field as well as to motivate, encourage, and inspire young people, particularly young Black women, to pursue a career in science.  She is passionate about breaking barriers and stereotypes in the field and wants to pave a better path for the next generation of young Black scientists.”