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Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, University of the Witwatersrand

Professor Helen Rees is the Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (RHI) of the University of Witwatersrand where she is also a Personal Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and serves on the LSHTM Visiting Committee, having previously been the LSHTM¹s Heath Clark Lecturer.
She is an Honorary Fellow of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University. Professor Rees received her Medical Degree and a Master¹s in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University, is an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
Professor Rees is one of South Africa¹s best known women scientists recognised for her contribution to national health policy and to global health. Her expertise spans reproductive health/STIs, HIV prevention and vaccines. Prof Rees serves as a technical expert to many national and international organisations. She is the Chair of the South African Medicines Control Council, a member of the National Advisory Group on Immunisations and a member of the National Health Data Advisory and Coordination Committee.She is the Chair of the WHO Afro Regional Task Force on Immunization having previously chaired the WHO¹s global Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) . She serves on SAGE committees on Measles and Rubella,the SAGE Committee on the Global Vaccine Action Plan and she Co-chairs the SAGE Committee on Ebola Vaccines. She is the Chair of the WHO¹s International Health Regulation¹s Emergency Committee on Polio and chairs the WHO¹s Committee on Maternal Influenza Immunisation, and is a member of the WHO Polio Research Committee.
She serves of the Board of AIDs Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) and on several scientific advisory committees including the NIH¹s HIV Prevention Networks Scientific Advisory Committee, the NIH¹s Advisory Committee on Microbicides, the Population Council¹s Scientific Advisory Group on Microbicides, the Scientific Committee of the International Multipurpose Prevention technology Group,the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Centre for HIV/AIDS Vaccinology, and on the Wellcome Trust¹s Hillemann Lab Scientific Advisory Committee.
Prof Rees has received a number of awards. She recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution over a Lifetime from the National Science and Technology Foundation.In 2015 she was awarded the 2014 Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship given to a leading scholar who has a sustained a record of outstanding research and intellectual achievement at the highest level. In 2006 she was elected as a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) member, and in 2012 was awarded the SA Academy of Science¹s Gold Award for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.
She was awarded Wits University¹s Vice-Chancellor¹s Research Award (2012), Wits¹ highest research recognition, and Wits Faculty of Health Sciences recognition for dedication and achievement in research (2013). She was the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine¹s 2011 International Heath Clark lecturer awarded to an outstanding global health practitioner.
In 2012 she was awarded the South African Medical Association¹s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013 the SA National Research Forum recognised her as an outstanding international scientist. She was the first person to receive the SA Department of Science and Technology¹s award for the Distinguished Scientist recognized for outstanding contribution to improving the quality of life of women¹ (2006). In 2006 she received an award from a pan African NGO called Amanitare for her contribution to African women and children. In 2001 Queen Elizabeth II made her an Officer of the British Empire for her contribution to global health.


  • –present
    Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, University of the Witwatersrand

Grants and Contracts

  • 2018
    Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute
    Funding Source:
    National Research Foundation