Amid success with COVID vaccines, the call to invest in HIV research intensifies

Local experts are urging the government and the private sector to learn from the COVID-19 vaccines produced in record time and to apply those lessons to finding an HIV vaccine.

FILE: Data released by Johns Hopkins University reports that 1.4 billion people across the globe have now received the COVID-19 vaccination. Picture: 123rf.com

CAPE TOWN - Experts have called on governments across the globe, as well as the private sector, to invest more in finding an HIV vaccine.

Over the last year and a half, scientists have had numerous medical breakthroughs in finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, and local experts are now urging the government and the private sector to learn from COVID-19 and the vaccines produced in record time.

In an opinion piece published in the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism newsletter, experts said that in the quest to find an HIV vaccine, there were many lessons to be learnt from the COVID-19 vaccine.

Human rights lawyer and founder of the Health Justice Initiative, Fatima Hassan, said more needed to be done for HIV/Aids research.

“So some of the benefits, if we were to see the same level of investment, is that we could accelerate the research agenda for HIV Aids.

“We potentially could have collaboration across different governments and institutions that could translate into meaningful access into a vaccine for HIV/Aids and into the sharing of that knowledge,” said Hassan.

“The key question is whether there would be an agreement that would limit access as we’ve seen with COVID-19 vaccines. But be that as it may, what you really need is an unprecedented global effort.”

Hassan said there had been many breakthroughs in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It really is unprecedented the level of investment, the collaboration and also the scientific progress that’s been made within the space of not even a year, basically less than a year.”

She said HIV/Aids and other diseases should receive the same amount of research and funding.

“We would like to see that momentum rebuild, we would like to see HIV/Aids and a number of other neglected diseases being prioritised by research. Because it shows that scientific advancement can actually be made if it’s in the right circumstances with the right support.”

Globally, more than 163 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and close to four million people have died from the disease. Data released by Johns Hopkins University reports that 1.4 billion people across the globe have now received the COVID-19 vaccination.

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