Tribute to Gita Ramjee and Emmanuel Harding
03 Apr 2020
This week we lost two dear friends and colleagues to COVID-19 complications.
Gita Ramjee, who led the MRC South Africa HIV prevention unit for years worked with us on the Microbicides Development Programme (MDP) and more recently on PrEPVacc. She dedicated her life to preventing HIV. I first met her over 20 years ago when she was in London visiting family and came to see us to talk about microbicides and the need to find something that women could use to protect themselves. Rates of new infections in young women in Kwazulu-Natal were shockingly high, and remain so today in spite of widespread testing and treatment. She worked tirelessly on the microbicide trials and in spite of many disappointing trial results, she was willing to continue in the search of a new product – an inspiration that led to a life-time achievement award at the Microbicides 2012 conference. Mitchell Warren from AVAC reminded us of Gita’s words “I strongly believe that my calling in life is to find methods that empower women to take control of their HIV prevention and reproductive health rights through informed choices.”
Gita Ramjee receiving the Outstanding Female Scientist Award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership in 2018
Emmanuel Harding came to MRC CTU in 2003 from the London Fire Brigade to be the Finance Officer for MDP. MDP was an award of £42M over 10 years and we had to report the actual spend and budget status for 13 partners every quarter to the Department of International Development. For those of us that struggle with a balance sheet, Emmanuel was calm personified and a very steady hand at the financial tiller. He was an excellent auditor and really understood the cultural pressures that our centres were under, so managed to steer them towards the required standards with empathy. When MDP ended in 2010 he stayed on to work with the TB team, most recently on STREAM, where he provided the same quiet and reliable support.
Emmanuel Harding (centre), with the ‘Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da Comunidade’, Maputo, Mozambique Finance team, March 2010. Photo taken during a multi-disciplinary MRC CTU team visit to Mozambique for capacity building prior to the MDP301 TOP Up trial
Both these individuals were devoted to their families and it’s painful to think their loss at a time when families are unable to grieve in the traditional way. Both were happy individuals with a zest for life - they would want us to remember them this way. They were much loved, and will be sorely missed by their families and the MRC CTU community.