With steady continental progress on a possible breakthrough for an HIV/AIDS vaccine for Africa, the resolution as to which African country will be home to the centre has sparked mixed reactions among health officials.
In an interview with The New Times; during the just concluded 59th Session of the World Health Organization Regional committee for Africa, various health officials from across the continent noted that they have what it takes to host the centre.
Dr. Sam Zaramba, a representative from Uganda told The New Times that a team has initially visited three countries of South Africa, Botswana and Uganda to pre-determine whether they have the necessary equipment and expertise to run the centre.
“During that visit, we managed to showcase our potential. Not only do we have the right technical support but also they saw that we have a good number of people on which the vaccine will be tested.”
“We even have a group of experts engaged in research of the vaccine so we should have the chance to host it,” Zaramba said.
The Health Minister of Botswana, Lesego Motsumi however emphasized that Botswana was one of the first countries to globally declare that they have a serious problem with the pandemic.
She said that because of her country’s early openness to the pandemic, it prompted leading research and academic institutions like Harvard University to carry out vaccine trials in her country.
For this, she insisted Botswana deserved the honour of hosting the vaccine trail centre.
“Botswana has always been available as an open book to read with regard to HIV/ AIDS.
Our efforts in fighting the scourge are also impressive plus our strong political will owing to the fact that the National AIDS Council is based in the President’s Office for critical follow up.”
“We have what it takes to host this vaccine centre, but if it goes to any other country, then we will still support it. After all it will be in Africa and for Africans,” Motsumi said.
Dr. Dieudonée Bakala from Congo Brazaville on the other hand suggested that Rwanda hosts it, given the country’s strong political will as evidenced by the fact that the First Lady, Jeanette Kagame is one of the strong voices behind the vaccine’s advocacy.
Kenya’s Beth Mugo also insisted that her country has strong laboratories, facilities and manpower that will make the research a success while Adani Illo, a delegate from Niger considered that it be taken to a country most affected by HIV such as Swaziland.
As the scramble for hosting the centre continues, the Health Minister from Sao Tome and Principe, Arlindo Vicente de A. Carvalho advised that countries with strong technology systems and infrastructure such as Nigeria and South Africa be given the chance to host it.
Once acquired, the vaccine will significantly cut Africa’s high infection rate thus promoting an Aids free world.