Dr. Morenike Ukpong, Associate Professor of Paediatric Dentistry and Consultant at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, has called for all hands to be on deck to ensure that all available HIV prevention methods reach people who need them.
Dr Ukpong made the call in commemoration of the 2015 HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.
Ukpong who is Coordinator of the New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society, said NHVMAS, in collaboration with the Vaccine Advocacy Research Group (AVAC) is committed to ensure that investments in research to ensure even more prevention options are made available as they are developed.
According to him:
"While we know that an AIDS vaccine remains essential to ultimately ending the epidemic, today on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2015, we can report progress in the field of HIV Vaccine research as well as progress in the development of other HIV prevention strategies"
He also called for greater collaboration between scientists and funders so that even more progress is recorded in keeping people more informed on the virus and also to developed even better products for the country and continent.
In his words
“As this work moves forward, scientists and funders need to collaborate with advocates and community stakeholders to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to communications and community engagement. With the excitement in the field, and the prospect for the future, we ask that the robust community of researchers in the HIV field in needs to be at the table now that research plans are being taken so as to ensure that the needs of Nigerians and as a region is addressed.
Speaking further, Dr Ukpong said:
"We need our HIV activists, advocates and community stakeholders who will need to explain the science, purpose and possible outcomes of this research need support to track the research path, ask the hard questions, demand progress and efficiency, and other aspects of the R&D process. We need to collectively ensure that Nigerians and West Africa as a region start working conscientiously for prompt access to developed product. We also need to engage with the exciting efforts to understand if and how to cure HIV in people who are already infected."
He further pointed out that Janssen, part of Johnson & Johnson, is launching its own international clinical trial to test a vaccine developed with partners.
"We haven’t seen a large vaccine developer invest in clinical trials for AIDS vaccine without public or charitable contributions in almost a decade. This vaccine strategy incorporatesa strategy that researchers hope will protect against the many different types of HIV that circulate around the world. Second, further upstream research involves the discovery that some people living with HIV create particularly potent antibodies that are able to ‘neutralise’ many different HIV strains. A handful of these ‘broadly neutralising antibodies’, or bNAbs, have been isolated from blood samples donated by HIV"