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- Profile - Dr. Peter PIOT


BIRTHPLACE     : Belgium
DATE OF BIRTH :17 February 1949
NATIONALITY    : Belgium

Dr. Peter PIOT


  • Director and Professor of Global Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK (since September 2010)
  • M.D. University of Ghent, 1974; Ph.D. (Microbiology) University of Antwerp, 1980
  • Various positions at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium up to Professor of Microbiology, and Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, (1974-1992)
  • Senior Fellow in Infectious Diseases, University of Washington, Seattle, USA  (1978-1979)
  • Associate Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of Nairobi, Kenya (1986-1987), and Visiting Professor (1987-1991)
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Projet SIDA, Kinshasa, Zaire (DR Congo) (1994-1991)
  • Research collaborations in Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe.
  • Associate Director, Global Programme on AIDS, World Health Organization, Geneva (1992-1994)
  • Executive Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Geneva (1995-2008)
  • Senior Fellow, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle (2009)
  • Professor of Global Health, Imperial College for Science, Technology and Medicine, London (2009-2010)
  • Chair “Knowledge against Poverty”, College de France, Paris (2009-2010)
  • Membership of academies: Institute of Medicine, US Academy of Sciences; Academy of Medical Sciences, UK; Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium; Académie Nationale de Médicine, France; Royal college of Physicians, London
  • Born in Belgium in 1949


 Professor Piot is one of the world's leaders in global health, and has made numerous original research contributions to the microbiology, epidemiology, clinical description, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases in Africa, as illustrated by over 550 scientific publications and 17 books. His research contributions to health in Africa can be grouped into four areas:

  1. Viral haemorrhagic fevers: As a young scientist he co-discovered the Ebola virus and investigated its first known outbreak in Zaire, providing the first clinical description and understanding of its epidemiology. This first investigation of Ebola haemorrhagic fever provided the foundation for controlling subsequent outbreaks in Africa. 
  2. Impact of infectious diseases on pregnancy outcome:  While at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, his team studied the aetiology, epidemiology and treatment of adverse outcomes of pregnancy for both mother and child due to infectious diseases, in particular common genital infections, such as chlamydial and gonococcal infections (and later HIV) and syphilis. This work led to a new understanding of the importance of genital infections in premature birth, neonatal infections, and post partum infections for the mother, as well as new WHO guidelines for the treatment and prevention of neonatal conjunctivitis, which can cause blindness. With colleagues in various African countries, he also developed new diagnostic approaches, therapeutic regimens, and simple clinical algorithms of common, and increasingly treatment resistant, bacterial sexually transmitted diseases. This research was incorporated into WHO treatment guidelines and clinical management algorithms still widely used in Africa and beyond. 
  3. HIV/AIDS:  Dr Piot is best known for his pioneering work on AIDS and HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa. His 1984 publication in The Lancet for the first time documented a major heterosexual epidemic of AIDS in Central Africa. He co-founded with Jonathan Mann the first international AIDS research project in Africa. In subsequent studies his team established the current knowledge base on the unique clinical manifestations, natural history of HIV infection, and epidemiology of HIV infection in Africa. Collaborative studies in Nairobi and Kinshasa elucidated mechanisms of heterosexual transmission, including the role of common sexually transmitted infections and male circumcision in the spread of HIV. This led to the first studies showing the effectiveness of prevention interventions against HIV in high risk populations in Africa such as in sex workers, and later to the first studies on the use of female-controlled methods such as vaginal microbicides. In addition, the teams in both Kinshasa and Nairobi conducted the early studies defining the rate of transmission of HIV from mother to child, and its associated risk factors.
    Working with scientists in several African countries Dr Piot's laboratory identified the very wide genetic heterogeneity of HIV-1 isolates from Africa, in particular from West-Central and Central Africa, leading to the discovery of genetically and phenotypically highly aberrant strains in Cameroon. His team also discovered and immunologically and genetically characterized SIV cpz in wild captured  chimpanzees from Gabon and Congo – a virus closely related to the human immunodeficiency virus type 1, and probably the origin of HIV.  Combined with retrospective seroepidemiology this work contributed greatly to our understanding of the origins and early spread of HIV in Africa.
  4. Tuberculosis : Dr Piot and his team were among the first to document the high rate of tuberculosis among people with HIV in Africa, where TB is now the first cause of death among HIV infected individuals. They described the specific clinical spectrum and diagnostic challenges of TB in patients with concomitant HIV infection. His team also demonstrated that commonly used anti-tuberculous treatment had a high failure and mortality rate in patients with co-infection with HIV, leading to new clinical management and treatment guidelines for TB in Africa.


 Dr Piot is probably one of the most influential global health leaders today through an unusual combination of scientific excellence and policy strategy. His research has not only led to improved guidelines for the diagnosis and clinical management, treatment, and population control of a wide range of common infectious diseases and their complications in Africa, but also helped to raise worldwide attention to the emerging epidemic of AIDS in Africa, and provided the foundation of current HIV policies in numerous African countries. When antiretroviral medication became available in the mid 90s, Dr Piot launched the first treatment programmes for people with HIV in Africa (Uganda and Cote d'Ivoire), which demonstrated that complex antiretroviral treatment is feasible in resource poor environments. He was instrumental in negotiating a much reduced price for antiretroviral drugs, in developing dedicated international funding mechanism for the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria, and developing long term strategies against AIDS. It is no exaggeration to say that his work has saved or improved the lives of millions of people in Africa. 

 In addition to his research and policy work, Dr Piot trained numerous African researchers in laboratory science, epidemiology and public health, and helped strengthen institutions in the multiple countries he worked in.

 His recent acclaimed memoir "No time to lose" summarises how as the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS Dr Piot was instrumental in bringing AIDS and global health to the forefront of the policy agendas in Africa and worldwide, always applying the lessons and products of science to public policy. As the Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine he continues his research and education commitments in Africa.

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