AIDS vaccine necessary to combat deadly virus

Dr Uche Umeh, a medical expert, has called on government at all levels to procure C-D-4 Count Machines for effective management of the AIDS HIV challenge.

Umeh, an HIV Programme Coordinator at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka, in Anambra, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka on Wednesday.

She made the call as the world celebrates the year 2022 World AIDS Vaccine Day, taken place across the globe on May 18.

Umeh said the machine is a major determinant for dispensing Anti-retroviral drugs to affected persons, and described its availability in centers as key to the management of the virus.

Umeh said that the placement of the machines at HIV Centers across the country would enhance the effective management and control the spread of the virus amongst the public.

“The availability of the C-D-4 count machines across HIV centers would boost drug dispensing rate and achieve medical service delivery to affected persons,” she said.

She said that AIDS/HIV risk factors are maternal and child transmission of the HIV from mothers who are infected to their babies and attributed unprotected sex as major causes.

Umeh said that female sex workers, gay and hard-drug users, mostly between the ages of 15 to 49 years, get infected easily but females are three times most likely to get infected because they are more vulnerable.

She urged government to engage in intervention exercise by female empowerment, sex education across board, sensitisation and mass campaigns to know one’s status.

Umeh advised that those infected should enroll in HIV centres and be adherent to drugs and that pregnant mothers should enroll to avoid mother-to-child transmission which adds to the number of people living with HIV.

“Currently, Anambra has about 2.2 to 2.4 per cent above the national prevalence rate of 1.4 per cent,” she said.

Umeh said that the major interest now is to achieve viral suppression in all HIV patients so the transmission of the virus would be minimised, encouraging all positive patients to check their viral load to achieve suppression.

She said if 95 per cent of positive patients are on treatment, those 95 per cent will be virally suppressed and the HIV pandemic scourge would be curbed, though in adolescent viral suppression is a problem because they are non-adherent to drugs and very active sexually.

“We have centres in Anambra at both COOUTH and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) where people can check their viral load,” she said.

Umeh pleaded with the public that “as we mark HIV vaccine day, it is good for people to accept the reality of the virus”, spread of the disease would not be tamed if active precautions are not taken to control it.

She urged the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Community and various research institutes to replicate the same zeal and commitment they exhibited in producing COVID-19 Vaccine in manufacturing AIDS Vaccine.

“We look forward to developing an effective and safe vaccine that would bring the scourge to an end,” she said.

She indicated that many health care workers, volunteers, students, community members and NGOs work relentlessly to create awareness and sensitise the people on ho to live right with HIV and AIDS

Umeh said that the day also states the importance of the vaccine to prevent HIV infection, to educate people on how to stop HIV Aids from spreading and also what measures to take if one is infected by the virus.

She described the day as very important to humanity, and encouraged people living with HIV to always access their anti-retroviral drugs until the vaccine is finally produced, saying the disease is not a death sentence.

NAN reports that World AIDS Vaccine Day is observed on May 18 each year. It is also known as the HIV Vaccine Awareness Day to spread awareness about Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The Day also highlights the importance of immunisation and shows the crucial necessities for preventive HIV vaccine research. It promotes the expression of gratefulness to volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists working together to find a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine.

NAN report that the maiden World HIV Vaccine Awareness Day was celebrated in 1998. The idea of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day came into existence from a commencement speech delivered by former US President, Bill Clinton, at Morgan State University on 18 May 1997, at which emphasised that only a really effective and preventive HIV vaccine can contain and eradicate the fatal disease.

He had said “only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS,” as noted by HIVinfo website.

He appealed to the world to develop an AIDS vaccine within the next decade by effective use of science and technology.

Since then, World AIDS Vaccine Day is celebrated every year to mark the anniversary of Clinton’s speech.

The theme for World AIDS Vaccine Day 2022 has not been announced yet. It will be released by the leading body.

The day is celebrated with different themes each year. The theme in 2021 was ‘Global solidarity, shared responsibility.’

The 2022 celebration marks the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Vaccine awareness day. (NAN)

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