A-rating for HIV/AIDS pioneer

Emeritus Professor Robin Wood, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Research Centre at UCT, was awarded a National Research Foundation (NRF) A2-rating in the 2013 round of ratings, pegging him as a world leader in his field, and bringing the faculty’s tally of A-rated scientists to 12.

Professor Wood first came across “slim disease” as a doctor in Zambia in the early 1980s, before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had been identified, or anyone knew that acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was the result. He had no idea it would one day become a global pandemic – and that it would shape his career and research.

That body of work, nearly two decades of pioneering HIV/AIDS research, has earned the Oxford-trained specialist physician and infectious-disease expert many accolades and honours, culminating in his NRF A-rating.

Among his many achievements has been developing the first community HIV clinic in Gugulethu in 2002, which led to the development of national HIV protocols, implemented in 2004.

Professor Wood says he would like to turn his focus now towards tuberculosis (TB) and the very high rates of TB infection, particularly among South Africa’s children, as well as the intersection of TB and HIV. What has perhaps been lost in the HIV/AIDS landscape, he says, is that “TB is an unmitigated disaster. There is more TB in Cape Town than in Canada, the US, France and Germany put together. And it’s getting consistently worse. We need a new approach to understanding TB transmission.”

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