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15 February 2021

Tribute to Professor James Hakim

Tribute to Professor James Hakim, world-leading HIV scientist and research collaborator with King’s College London, who passed away in January 2021 from COVID-19 complications.

Prof James Hakim
Professor James Hakim

James Hakim (1954-2021) was Professor of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences (UZCHS) in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Adjunct Professor of Infectious Diseases, University of Colorado, Denver, USA. He was the Director of the University of Zimbabwe Clinical Research Centre and Site Leader of the Clinical Trials Unit’s Parirenyatwa Clinical Research site of UZCHS.

He was a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London and Edinburgh. Professor Hakim was actively engaged in teaching, research, mentorship, and both national and international programmatic work related to capacity building in research and medical education. He served as an elected African representative on the IAS Governing Council from 2016 to 2020 and dedicated his life to HIV research across antiretroviral therapy, prevention, opportunistic infections and long term complications of HIV.

James was a unique research leader, a brilliant clinical scientist and mentor, humble, welcoming and empowering of all around him, whatever their background. We learnt so much from James, a man who you always wanted to listen to because every word gave you a new impetus. I was very fortunate to work with him for 11 years. He will be greatly missed. Zimbabwe has been recording a steep upward trend in COVID-19 cases and deaths since December 2020 ,as the nation grapples with a second wave of the pandemic. Substantial numbers of health care workers have lost their lives from COVID-19 across the African continent. We hope to see health workers vaccinated soon in Zimbabwe and other African countries.

Professor Melanie Abas, collaborator & friend to Professor James Hakim, and Professor of Global Mental Health at IoPPN

Among Professor Hakim’s many achievements, he was a leading figure in the DART trial, which was instrumental in the introduction of antiretroviral therapy in Africa, and in the HIV Prevention Trials Network HTPN 052 trial which was a landmark study proving that early antiretroviral therapy can prevent HIV transmission. As Principal Investigator of the Medical Education Partnership (MEPI) Initiative, he transformed medical education in Zimbabwe. Kings were partners in the MEPI grant, and James was a co-investigator for our current TENDAI trial of depression treatment in people living with HIV.

Professor Hakim contributed to seminal HIV research with more than 150 publications and international communications, and was honoured with the Ward Cates Spirit Award in 2019 for his outstanding commitment and leadership to health as a right, scientific excellence, and generosity in mentorship and support.

His passion was training the next generation of competent, independent, and collaborative African research scientists. As was reflected during a tribute on 27 January on BBC Focus on Africa (starts at 00.20), Professor Hakim touched so many lives and has left a legacy of researchers and research administrators in Zimbabwe whom he trained and mentored.

Our deep condolences go to James’ wife and family and to his many friends and colleagues. James was a world-leading HIV scientist, mentor to so many, and a dear friend and collaborator to researchers at King’s.

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Professor of Global Mental Health