News Releases

HIV/AIDS Co-Discoverer to Deliver UWI Distinguished Open Lecture

For Release Upon Receipt - November 21, 2017

St. Augustine

Nobel Laureate Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi discusses the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in the 21st Century

In 1983, clinicians worldwide did not know why their patients were dying from a mysterious virus.  Today, we know that there are 37 million people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the world. We also know that there are two million new HIV infections every year. This is all thanks to virologist Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi who co-discovered HIV and dedicated her life to the fight against AIDS.  In 2008, she received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for her ground-breaking co-discovery and research contributions. 

The UWI and CARISCIENCE (a UNESCO-affiliated St. Augustine Campus based organisation) presents her Distinguished Open Lecture on the topic, The Challenges of HIV/AIDS in the 21st Century happening on November 24 at 6pm at the Teaching and Learning Complex (TLC), UWI St. Augustine. 

Professor Barré-Sinoussi’s involvement with retrovirology research dates back to the 1970s where as a young, female medical student, she sought out laboratory internships in biomedical sciences – which was unheard of at the time. According to a 2014 The Guardian UK article, through her own persistence, she was able to gain an internship at Pasteur – a male-dominated laboratory that was not used to having young, working-class women like Barré-Sinoussi in their midst. Her determination paid off as she went on to gain her PhD there in 1975. 

The work that started in those laboratories laid the foundation for the 1983 scientific breakthrough the world desperately needed, where she and her colleague Luc Montagnier discovered a retrovirus in patients with swollen lymph glands that attacked critical components of the body’s immune system. The retrovirus, which was later named Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), was identified as the cause of AIDS. This discovery, for which Professors Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier received the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, was the basis for radical improvement in HIV diagnosis and treatment. 

Professor Barré-Sinoussi’s work with HIV/AIDS research did not remain restricted to the lab – she has authored or co-authored more than 300 original publications and over 125 reviewed articles, is currently Honorary President of the Institut Pasteur International Network and of the Virology Department of the Institute Pasteur. Up until 2015, she was Research Director at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and Professor at the Institute Pasteur in France where she led research programmes on HIV/AIDS pathogenesis focussing on mechanisms required to control infection and harmful responses induced by the virus.  From 2012 to 2014, she was President of the International AIDS Society (IAS) whose ‘Toward an HIV Cure’ initiative she had launched in 2010. Professor Barré-Sinoussi remains an active IAS member and chairs a number of international scientific advisory panels and boards. A member of the French Academy of Science since 2009, she was recently elevated to the rank of Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour. 

As a strong advocate of multidisciplinary and translational science in order to accelerate evidence-based public health interventions in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment; Professor Barré-Sinoussi is committed to ensuring that young scientists, just as she was become empowered to make discoveries of their own through adequate training and technology transfer. Her fight against the worldwide spread of HIV/AIDS includes building capacity in resource limited settings and maintaining long term collaborations and coordination research programmes in both Africa and South East Asia. 

UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2016 there were approximately 11,000 adults and children living with HIV. What more discoveries can be made to help them? Professor Barré-Sinoussi lecture on The Challenges of HIV/AIDS in the 21st Century is free and open to the public. To RSVP email or call 662-2002 ext. 83635. 


About Open Lectures

The University of the West Indies routinely hosts a large selection of public lectures and seminars by prominent local, regional and international speakers. Managed by an Open Lectures Committee, the public lecture program is considered one of the institution’s key tools to propel the economic, social and political development of West Indian society. The content of the public lectures is intended to extend the reach of the University’s research and teaching toward the wider community.

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website: 

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)