January 8, 2014 | Vol.54 N.2

Fighting malaria, TB and AIDS/HIV is a global and local issue

Years ago I had a friend who was fighting cancer. At that time she was bitten by a mosquito and contracted malaria. Because of her cancer treatments and their affects on her body’s immune system, she ended UP dying due to the malaria.

While this is an extremely rare event here in the United States, millions of people all over the world continue to die from malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS/HIV.

According to an editorial published in the Mercury News on November 13, 2013, “TB still kills nearly 5,000 people every day around the globe, but the number has fallen 41 percent since 1990, and scientists now say they have the ability to eradicate it — not just control, but eradicate it — as well as AIDS and malaria.

All they need is the money. And in global terms, it’s not that much: $15 billion over three years, according to the Global Fund, which manages the fight against these kinds of diseases. It is asking nations to step up based on the size of their economies. The United States needs to do its part.”

On December 2, 2013, Global Fund’s Replenishment Conference was held in Washington, D.C. where leaders from all over the world came together to support the cure and the push to eradicate these diseases from the globe.

The goal at the conference for Global Fund to fight these diseases is to raise $15 billion. They are asking the United States to commit $5 billion over the next three years to this important and life-saving cause. They would join Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, who have each committed to raise their donations.

Just over a decade ago in sub-Saharan Africa, where the AIDS crisis is still considered a pandemic, only about 50,000 people were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV/AIDS. In 2012, over 7.5 million people in that same area were receiving treatment.

According to a press release by Results, the drugs to treat the disease which once cost $10,000 per year are now less than $200 — a 99 percent decline. In the fight against TB, Global Fund investments have allowed countries to improve detection and treatment, enabling a 40 percent drop in TB deaths. In 2000, just three percent of African households had an insecticide-treated bed net to protect them from mosquitoes carrying malaria. Now 53 percent of families in Africa have a bed net, which when combined with treatment and other prevention efforts, has led to a 33 percent drop in deaths from malaria.”

We have seen diseases like small pox and polio become eradicated because of vaccines and other measures and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continue to provide polio vaccines around the world for those in need.

These diseases can also be swept from the earth with continued monetary donations from countries both rich and poor.

The Results release states it best, “the confluence of rapid progress, breakthrough science, and better data has opened a window of opportunity to strike a decisive blow against these epidemics. But health experts warn that this window will not stay open if world leaders delay taking action. Infectious diseases have little regard for fiscal and budget cycles, and the impressive gains of the last decade are fragile. When TB is not properly treated it becomes more dangerous, developing into drug-resistant strains that are more difficult and costly to cure. Malaria nets need to be replaced regularly, and malaria resurgence is never more than a rainy season away if efforts are not maintained.”

Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, stated it in more simple terms, “we have a choice: we can invest now, or pay forever.”

As citizens of the world we must encourage our government officials to continue to provide financial support in their efforts against these pandemics. While it seems that these diseases are mostly a third-world problem we never know when these diseases will become a first-world problem.

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