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Tropical disease experts report missed opportunity to transform global HIV/AIDS fight
Date:12/9/2011

(FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2011) Global HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts are missing a major opportunity to significantly improve health conditions in poor countries by simply adding low-cost care for the many other chronic and disabling diseases routinely afflicting and often killing these same patients, according to a panel of disease experts who spoke at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).

"People want better health; they do not understand why we silo diseases," said Judd Walson, a global health and infectious disease expert at the University of Washington. "If you die from malaria, you don't care that your HIV was treated. Communities want us to leverage the resources we have to treat and prevent disease as effectively as possible."

Walson and his colleagues on the panel noted that many victims of HIV/AIDS also typically suffer from one or more of about 17 neglected, but burdensome, tropical diseases often called "diseases of poverty" because they prey on the "bottom billion"the world's poorest people. They include ailments such as trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and onchocerciasis, all of which are either insect-borne disease, bacterial infections, or caused by parasitic worms.

Despite the illness and deaths attributable to these diseases, proposed US funding for fighting them was only about $155 million in 2011, or about 3 percent of the $5.6 billion invested in HIV/AIDS efforts. Moreover, the programs often exist in isolation from one another with, for example, many programs restricting support only to antiretroviral drugs to treat AIDS.

Yet tropical disease experts note that in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where neglected diseases affect 1.4 billion people, co-infections with HIV are common. And they see mounting evidence that dealing with multiple diseases at the same time and in the same place is more cost-effective a
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Contact: Preeti Singh
psingh@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5722
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Source:Eurekalert

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