Home Health & Food Why community engagement remains crucial to finding effective HIV vaccine —Expert 

Why community engagement remains crucial to finding effective HIV vaccine —Expert 

by James Davies


Oluwatobiloba Jaiyeola

A Senior Programme Manager, Global Advocacy for HIV prevention, Maureen Luba Milambe, has stressed the need for continued dialogue and coordination on information sharing among all stakeholders involved in decision-making on HIV vaccines.

Milambe said the dialogue will help to achieve the level of coordination desired in making progress toward finding an effective HIV vaccine.

According to her, most communities are not part of conversations or forums where decisions are being made regarding HIV vaccines.

Milambe stated this during a virtual webinar session held on Wednesday, in commemoration of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

The webinar was organised by the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation, in partnership with the Advocacy for Prevention of HIV and AIDS, South Africa.

The stakeholders, Milambe said, are communities, the industry, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, international NGOs, policymakers, regulatory bodies and funders.

She said, “For us to achieve the level of coordination that is desired for us to make progress in finding an effective HIV vaccine, I think there will be a need for transparency, information sharing, making sure all stakeholders are given an equal voice especially when decisions are being made in terms of which vaccine candidates have to go into clinical trials, which locations do we allocate vaccine trials,” Milambe said.

Milambe added that it will take a lot of working together and bridging gaps in terms of communication to ensure that there is a shared vision and common understanding of why we need an HIV vaccine.

“Having an open honest dialogue among stakeholders and most importantly, working together and making sure that we all have a shared vision on why we need an HIV vaccine and that all of us are geared towards making sure that the reason, is for public health benefit at large and not just because maybe we want to make a profit.

“As we move into the new phase, all of us should create more platforms that bring together all relevant stakeholders in one place.

“We need more platforms that bring together stakeholders so we can work together, think together, and move towards the same direction with a shared vision and mission,” Milambe said.

She also noted that trust needs to be built amongst communities because of vaccine hesitancy.

According to her, vaccine hesitancy has been an issue, especially with the COVID-19 vaccine, not just in Africa but globally.

“We need to make sure that we are building that trust early on so that once we have an effective HIV Vaccine, vaccine hesitancy shouldn’t be an issue.”

“The HIV platform has helped to produce a lot of COVID-19 vaccines and this is why we need to reflect on how we can re-invest the same energy, strategy, approaches and coordination and then apply that to the HIV vaccine research,” she said.

Also speaking at the webinar, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, a physician-scientist and Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, disclosed that the African continent will also be participating in the HIV vaccine trial.

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