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When Are We Having HIV Vaccine?

By Musa Kamara

I remember reading a Newsletter the other day from the internet that tells about the coming of an HIV vaccine. The write up was precise and published in 2020 by the internationally acclaimed organization- ‘Gavi the Vaccine Alliance,’ whereby, this organization throws light on a statement made by Bill Clinton in 1997:

“Only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS.”

On that sound request by erstwhile President Clinton, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, is here preaching hope for a vaccine and counting on scientific research for a cure and stating, “Scientific and technological innovation breakthroughs by passionate scientists and technicians trained to take the fight against the disease through the next generation and beyond are bringing us closer and closer to a vaccine. New approaches to strengthening, guiding and accelerating the body’s immune responses hold much promise and hope of defeating not only HIV but other complex pathogens.”

Taking a close look at the above extract, I found something fishy. The statement from the acclaimed organization (Gavi the Vaccine Alliance) without doubt, implies that the world should keep on waiting for a vaccine until “passionate scientists turned up.” For all this while, the scientific brains were busy doing other stuffs whilst a chunk of the world’s population, perishes as a result of HIV/AIDS. I wonder!

Michael Joseph Jackson, the Pop music icon, said in a song- “Heal the world…make it a better place…for you and for me…” this song was done in the 1990s and it has still stood the test of time.

There is nothing like partial healing and if you need a case study for that, check out with the trending COVID-19 pandemic. The expression, “An attack on one is an attack on all,” has clearly manifested throughout this COVID time.

HIV/AIDS has posed a serious health defect over the decades. Gavi in their report mentioned that for each year, HIV infects 2 million men, women and children. Since its assumption HIV has infected 78 million people and millions have died from the disease, most of whom are young people. The highest death toll for HIV/AIDS is recorded in Africa.

Some schools of thought argue that the HIV strain is difficult to subdue or curtail, owing to the fact that the virus produces a variety of strains. This strain-pattern hit hard on integral cells in the body, and some of these cells have proven to be the reservoir or the breeding ground for HIV. HIV in practical terms is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that is responsible for AIDS.

I don’t think the strain-pattern of HIV is enough to delay the discovery of a vaccine. Ebola has its share of strains, and the same applies to COVID-19. The world watches on until finally we saw vaccines for Ebola and COVID.

Evidently, there has been some bit of negligence in the race for a vaccine for not only HIV but also malaria. Say what you like about Africa, but what I can categorically tell you is that Africa makes the world a better place. Civilization sprouted in Africa and the Africa Continent accounts for most of what the world needs to survive. Why give Africa pittance when it comes to development?

In a recent broadcast, I heard the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling on super world powers to ensure that there is even distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the whole of Africa. This statement by the WHO Chief makes a lot of sense in ensuring that the world becomes a better place. We have seen resurgence of COVID-19, dubbed as 2nd Wave or 3rd Wave as the case maybe. Such resurgence tells you that every life matters. Epidemics and Pandemics are no respecters of the human race, therefore, we all need a warm embrace and watch each other’s back.

Many have died of HIV; many are dying out of HIV. Too much talking has been done on HIV/AIDS. Many out there, doubt the existence of HIV, and they have every reason to be, especially now when it’s no secret that there are vaccines for Ebola and COVID-19.

ICAP, an international non-governmental organization that has been working in Sierra Leone since 2014 has done so much in the area of infection prevention and control- addressing health emergencies such as Ebola, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. And it is interesting to note that, ICAP has recently rolled out a Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Package- a medical package to help tackle HIV. ICAP and our own National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS), I salute you for all what you have done. But it’s now time to put pressure on health and rights organizations that we need vaccines for HIV!

I saw some WHO recommendations, pointing out that the following COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer/BioNtech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, can help combat HIV/AIDS. I consider such statement as totally absurd and a show of irresponsibility. It’s a first-degree mockery. Indirectly, WHO is endorsing racism siding with the USA former President- Donald J. Trump in a statement he made on January 11th 2018, referring to African countries as “shithole countries,” following a discussion on migrants from Africa.

COVID-19 has clearly exposed WHO and other leading health organizations that not much attention has been paid to Africa in dealing with health emergencies. When COVID-19 hits the western world, everybody was running helter-skelter for a cure. Though, we have seen visible challenges on the COVID vaccines, but I think it’s a success story so far.

For HIV, the fact still remains that very little attention has been paid. And Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has made it very clear that we should wait for “passionate scientists and technicians,” skilled in the earth of providing a vaccine for HIV.

What a world!!!

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