Professor Helen Rees


Professor Helen Rees is the Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg where she is also a Personal Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Co-Director of the Wits African Leadership Initiative in Vaccinology Excellence (ALIVE). She is an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an Honorary Fellow of Cambridge University’s Murray Edwards College and an alumnus of Harvard Business School. She is the recipient of numerous national and global awards for her contribution to science and global health, the most recent being South Africa’s Order of the Baobab.


Professor Rees is internationally renowned for her policy and research work in vaccines, reproductive health and HIV.  She has chaired many national and global scientific committees. Her current portfolio includes being the Chair of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA); the Chair of the World Health Organization’s African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG), having previously chaired the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE); and being the Chair of the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee on Polio under the International Health Regulations.  As well as serving on the Board of the Wits Health Consortium, she serves on Wits University’s Research Committee. She also serves on the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), on the GAVI Policy and Programme Committee, she Chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and is a member of the Board of, the AVAC Board, a global advocacy organisation for HIV prevention research. In recognition of her reputation in the African region, Professor Rees recently chaired the 3rd National Health Summit for the Republic of South Sudan at the request of the South Sudanese Government and WHO, which produced the National Health Policy and the National Health Strategic plan from 2016-2026. 


In 2001 Queen Elizabeth II made her an Officer of the British Empire for her contribution to global health. In 2012 the South African Medical Association gave her a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to the South African health sector.