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Leading global scientist at Wits advises World Health Organization on monkeypox

- Wits University

Monkeypox is a disease of global public health importance as it not only affects countries in West and Central Africa, but the rest of the world.

In May 2022, multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in several non-endemic countries.  

Professor Helen Rees has been a member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH) since 2019. 

Professor Helen Rees

The Advisory Group had a meeting on Friday, 20 May 2022 to discuss the recent cases of monkeypox.  STAG-IH will provide independent advice and analysis to WHO on the infectious hazards that may pose a potential threat to global health security. It has an umbrella function as the overarching group advising WHO on relevant infectious hazards. 

Rees is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board at NICD, and she is also a member of the South African National Advisory Group on Immunisation (NAGI).  In her regional role as Chair of the AFRO Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group,

Rees together with her colleagues are keeping a very close eye on the data with studies currently underway to further understand the epidemiology, sources of infection, and transmission patterns.

For more resources on Monkeypox:

WHO: Monkeypox (



Professor Helen Rees is the Founder and Executive Director of Wits RHI, the largest research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Rees is internationally recognised as an award-winning global health practitioner who has dedicated her professional career to improving public health in Africa, with a focus on vaccine preventable diseases, HIV and sexual and reproductive health. She is a Personal Professor in the University of the Witwatersrand’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and an Honorary Fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University. 

Rees is widely respected for her ability to synthesize recommendations from multifaceted inputs and to link research to policy and has successfully chaired many national, regional and global committees in deliberations that have changed key strategies and policies in the African region and has served on expert structures and committees for WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, GAVI and BMGF.

She Chairs the WHO’s AFRO Region Immunization Technical Advisory Group and is the Co-Director of the Wits African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise Flagship programme.  She is Board Chair of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.

About Wits RHI

Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) celebrates 28 years of an unparalleled track record of conducting world class research, implementing sustainable programmes, and contributing to health policy. Wits RHI is part of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the largest research institute of the University of the Witwatersrand. Wits RHI is a UNAIDS, WHO and South African Medical Research Council (MRC) collaborating centre as well as a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) strategic partner.