After a lifetime of prolific work as Russia’s leading infectious disease doctor, courageous advocate, renowned professor and AHF ally, Dr. Aza Gasanovna Rakhmanova passed away in St. Petersburg on Nov. 18, 2015 at the age of 84, succumbing to illness.
“Dr. Aza was instrumental in starting the AHF Russia program,” said Zoya Shabarova, AHF Europe Bureau Chief. “When I met her in Mexico at the 2008 International AIDS Conference and told her about the Testing Millions Campaign, she immediately said that this is what they need and asked how could St. Petersburg join.”
“We jointly developed a decentralized model of care in St. Petersburg and then Russia to support testing,” Shabarova added. “We went together to the St. Petersburg Health Committee, presented our idea and got government support to start the AHF decentralized treatment program back in 2009.”
From early age, as a daughter of political exiles from Azerbaijan, Dr. Aza’s personality has been characterized by staunch resilience and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, a strong sense of justice and an unquenching sense of humor.
On one occasion, when faced with the need to quickly transport biological samples from patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma in the Far East of Russia to the research center in St. Petersburg, Dr. Aza carried the specimens aboard a plane in a thermos, telling airport security staff that, in fact, she was carrying hot soup and in all good conscience she could not leave it behind.
From the time Dr. Aza finished medical school with distinction in 1955, her long career as a doctor, pioneering AIDS expert in Russia and educator has been dedicated to providing the best possible care to patients.
“I always felt honored to be with Dr. Aza. I felt her fearlessness and it made me a stronger advocate. She always put a smile on my face. We have lost an AIDS hero,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy at AHF.
Most recently, Dr. Aza held positions of Deputy Head of the St. Petersburg City AIDS Center and professor at the Infectious Diseases Department of the St. Petersburg Federal Medical University. She has authored 11 books, numerous chapters in seven textbooks, 50 methodological manuals and 330 published journal articles.
She was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including a medal for National Achievement, formal recognition and gratitude from the Ministry of Health, as well as a special diploma from UNICEF for extensive contributions to the prevention and treatment of HIV among pregnant women and children.
Reflecting on the passing of Dr. Aza, AHF President Michael Weinstein said, “She will be missed. A woman after AHF’s heart.”