The Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN), says vaccine for treatment of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus that causes AIDS, may be available in the next five years.

Dr. Patrick Dakum, the Executive Secretary of IHVN, made the disclosure in Abuja when he appeared in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum.

He said that the challenge in developing the vaccine was in the nature of the HIV virus.

According to him, the virus gets into the cell and changes the DNA and this means that new cells carry the virus, adding that attempts to destroy the virus cause the cell to self-destruct.

“Vaccines are things we will continue to talk about; the scientific world is working very hard on that; I think it was only about two years ago that we had a vaccine that showed some promise and that is the vaccine that was anchored by the U.S. military.

“And the trial was carried out in Thailand. That shows some percentage protection and that gave hope to the vaccine community that, yes indeed, a vaccine is possible.

“There are several groups that are working; the university that we have an affiliation with is working on some concept of a vaccine that probably may also show promise.

“If I am to put a time into it, I think we probably may be able to say in another five years, we probably may be able to have a vaccine candidate that can go in.

According to him, if a vaccine candidate becomes available the regulatory bodies must also be prepared to do their work.

He said that agencies like NAFDAC and the National Health Research and Ethics Committee of the Federal Ministry of Health as well NACA, must be ready to cooperate in ensuring a quick and efficient trial.

Dakum pointed out that prevention remained the antidote to solving Nigeria’s HIV problem.

He stated the institute had provided drugs for treatment, laboratory equipment and reagents so that the infected could get the drugs free.

“If these health measures are properly harnessed, Nigeria can mitigate the scourge of this disease,” he said, adding that “when people compare the amount of money, time and effort that is required for prevention, it is much less than what is required for treatment.”

“We are major focused on ensuring that we scale up on treatment for HIV. We can’t treat our way out of the epidemic.

“It means then that without an active prevention; and prevention is each individual taking responsibility for their sexual behaviour.

“Unless each individual takes responsibility, we will continue to have cases and we will not be able to cope with the number.”

Dakum said the institute was working hard to have community structures that would address the issue of stigmatisation of those living with HIV and AIDS.

He said that the Ministry of Health, the National Primary Healthcare Development as well as the National Agency for the Control of AIDS have partnered with IHVN to provide guidelines and support.

According to him, the institute has behavioural communication strategies directed at the communities using the gatekeepers of information in each community.

He urged communities to have development committees which would be active in addressing stigmatisation.

NAN reports that the HIV prevalence rate in the country is 4.1 percent, while 8.8 million people are infected in a population of 167 million people, according to National Agency for the Control of AIDS.