Recent developments have indicated that the global efforts to develop an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is realisable.
This is according to the Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, Sani Aliyu, who spoke during a press conference on Thursday in Abuja, to mark the 20th anniversary of the annual HIV Vaccine Advocacy Day.
Mr. Aliyu pointed out that the process of vaccine development for other diseases has always been slow and laborious, yet feasible.
He also noted that Nigeria has so far achieved dramatic success in increasing coverage of HIV treatment, care and existing prevention options.
"At the first HIV Vaccine Advocacy Day in 1997, our focus was to mobilise stakeholder support for the development of a HIV vaccine, this being an important first step towards ending the HIV epidemic.
"Twenty years down the line, we still do not have a HIV vaccine but we are optimistic."Mr. Aliyu said.
He noted that developing a vaccine would be an important part of such a comprehensive, integrated and sustained preventive strategy.
Explaining the global efforts which have made this anniversary an occasion to celebrate, Mr. Aliyu stated that "in 2009, the vaccine field achieved proof-of-concept that a preventive HIV vaccine is possible; in 2012, for the first time ever, three different HIV Vaccine development approaches are in, or moving to, efficacy trials simultaneously: two of these are vaccine candidates and the third is a vaccine-related approach.
The Director General also emphasised that Nigeria is complementing the global efforts, assuring that government has taken the issue of vaccine development very seriously. He said his agency is ensuring that Nigerians have more access to HIV/AIDS treatment options, especially the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of the disease.
Also speaking on the possibility of developing an effective vaccine, the Executive Director, International Research Centre of Excellence, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Alashle Abimiku, said research so far has given positive indications.
Citing the example of HIV vaccine initiative in South Africa, she expressed optimism that with time, Nigeria could achieve her dream of developing a vaccine that is very suitable for her local need.
She disclosed that the idea of developing a vaccine for the disease was mooted since the discovery of HIV antiretroviral drugs, adding that it has been the desire of the international community to do this in order to end the epidemic by the target date.
With over three million, Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.