Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Expected HIV Vaccine

AFTER nearly 30 years of desperately searching for solutions to the Human-Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, the vermin that leads to the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, the world may soon heave a sigh of relief, as real hope has been kindled of a possible vaccine that could, on a single dose, offer lifelong immunity to HIV/AIDS.

A Texas-based institute has applied for a patent to begin the production of the vaccine genetically engineered to provide immunity for life to potential HIV/AIDS sufferers. The vaccine - its name is still shielded from the public - is also said to have the potency to provide relief for other infections.

It reportedly functions by preventing the replication of viruses when they enter the human body.

Since the potency of the HIV/AIDS virus is rooted on its ability to reproduce rapidly and spread within the body, thus eventually overwhelming the body's natural resistance to infections, the full release of this vaccine into the open market could become the first real advancement in the war to eliminate the killer virus and save millions of lives.

The news is particularly welcome to Africans living in the sub-Saharan zones, where the scourge has taken the bulk of human casualties, robbing them of valuable manpower and resulting in millions of orphaned children. In time it will render anti-retroviral drugs useless since the AVRs only slow down the rate of infection and spread.

Even when this drug becomes widely available, the war on HIV/AIDS will only be halfway won. This drug, however, has no benefits for those who have already developed the terminal stage of the disease (full-blown AIDS). The concerted efforts that have been going on, both on orthodox and traditional medical research should continue unabated.

Since this drug is, as yet, a preventive vaccine, it will take a long time of cautious observation before people will wholeheartedly accept it as vaccine against AIDS.

Health authorities and advocacy groups should continue to prevail on Nigerians to adopt risk free sex practices. They should also ensure the vaccine is affordable. Availability of a vaccine should not be an invitation to the recklessness that promotes HIV/AIDS.

Nigerians should continue to observe safe sex measures that limited spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria in the past five years. We make these points because about 90 per cent of new infections in Nigeria and Africa are acquired through sexual activities.

Even when this vaccine becomes widely available to users, Nigerians should not see it as a substitute to healthy sexual practices.

The greatest weapons against HIV/AIDS are not condoms or vaccines. Desisting from unsafe sex practices and, use of sterilised metal objects bear more preventive prospects than vaccines.

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