Despite education and treatment advances towards HIV e.g. provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ARV’s), male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, the rates have not dropped as much as they should have.
While ARV’s have been very helpful in fighting the epidemic, they are expensive and depend on continuous supply hence the need to find a long lasting cost effective method of addressing this challenge.
To address this, CIDRZ is part of the HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials (HVTN) that seek to develop a Safe and Effective Vaccine for Prevention of HIV Infections Globally.
Prevention of HIV transmission, is the long term global solution for the HIV pandemic. Current methods are working but Protection by these interventions is limited by
- Need for long-term continuous adherence
- Continuous uninterrupted access to products and
- Sustainable donor and public funding.
“Ultimately, we believe, the only guarantee of a sustained end of the AIDS pandemic lies in a combination of non-vaccine prevention methods and the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine.”
A vaccine able to prevent HIV infection would have a significant impact on the health, social and economic burden of HIV/AIDS and recent modelling studies showed that introducing a partially effective (30%) with limited coverage in Southern Africa could result in an significant reduction in HIV incidence compared to a non-vaccine scenario.
CIDRZ, Zambia Emory HIV Research Project (ZEHRP) and Zambia Institute of Mass Communication Education Trust (ZAMCOM) held a media café to raise awareness among journalists and the community on HIV vaccines, ethical conduct and the role of the media in the process.
In addressing journalists, ZEHRP Director Dr William Kilembe explained that “the rationale behind the vaccine trials is to find an intervention that has significant effect on reducing new HIV infections.”
The media science café, was attended by more than 25 journalists from different media houses to acquaint them on their role in health reporting and HIV vaccine trials in particular with a specific focus on HIV prevention research updates, current HIV vaccine trials in the region and globally as well as clinical research concepts.
Former Times of Zambia News Editor, Enock Ngoma said “the media are a key stakeholder that has to be involved in the entire process of any clinical trial. People believe what they read in the media and therefore the media will play a critical role in making people understand the objectives, processes and procedures of clinical trials. This is a step in the right direction for journalists to develop interest and gather prior knowledge about the trials, design process, participants and duration. I must commend CIDRZ and partners for bringing journalists together in this manner”.
Another participant, Nicholas Bwalya of Metro FM added that “journalists need more of such platforms to interact with researchers and inculcate the interest of health reporting in them. This is the only way we can understand the jargon that always has always posed a challenge to report on health research and outcomes”.
Meanwhile, CIDRZ Communications Manager Daniel Banda pointed out that “media is one of the most important stakeholders in every community. The media has influence on funders, policymakers, & even ethics review committees, hence the reason of our meeting here. Health affects everyone and almost no other news or specialist topic has such a universal audience in all media like health”.
And ZAMCOM Director, Oliver Kanene said “we are happy to partner with CIDRZ especially that the inaugural media science café was at CIDRZ years ago. The goal for this platform is simply to bring science to a level where everyone understands. Science is worthless if it is not shared with people but sharing can only happen if the media first understand the processes involved”.