As the country registers an increase in new HIV infections, stakeholders have called for improved access to prevention tools.
Recently, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Partners announced that the Imbokodo HIV vaccine trial offered no convincing protection against HIV infection, thereby bringing the study to a bleak end.
The Imbokodo vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) began in 2017 and involved 2600 women in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The results from the study showed that the vaccine has 25.2 per cent efficacy against the HIV virus, which is too low to make the vaccine useful.
With the disappointing news, a public health expert, Tosin Alaka told me that it is important for Nigerian government to increase the options of preventive tools to Nigerians from which they can choose from.
This is the time for policymakers in Nigeria to sensitise Nigerians on the new HIV prevention tools that they could use before exposure, right at the point of HIV transmission, and after being infected with the virus, he adds.
New HIV prevention tools are the Oral Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) that is used before exposure to HIV virus, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) that is used after exposure of the virus. But access to these tools are limited, hence the reason for the increasing rate of new HIV infection, Alaka explains.
The executive director, New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society (NHVMAS), Florita Durueke said, PEP is the only new HIV prevention tool that is available at public hospitals in Nigeria. If all the new HIV prevention tools are available to Nigerians, it will help to stem the high cases of new HIV infections, says Durueke.
Dureke further added that as biomedical HIV prevention research advances, there is need for prompt roll out so that populations that are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV infection can have access to the new tools.
The executive director, Improved Sexual Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative (ISHRAI), Olubiyi Sanders said PrEP is not readily available to meet demand in Nigeria, adding that One Stop Shops (OSS) provided by donors that provide PrEP to Nigerians who are at high risk, are located at strategic places.
Sanders, however, called on government to start investing in HIV programmes and ensure these new HIV prevention tools are available for all Nigerians who are at high risk of contracting the virus. That is the best way to tackle the high rates of new HIV infection in the country, he adds.