WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scattered successes fighting diseases in
poor countries prove that massive epidemics can be brought
under control if public and private groups commit billions of
dollars and political will to fight them, a U.N. report
released on Tuesday said.
Representatives of five U.N. agencies and the World Bank said
they were optimistic that AIDS ,
tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases now wiping out
millions of people and threatening economies could be reversed.
The challenge is securing commitments from governments in
developed and developing countries, the drug industry and
private companies and groups to pay for and implement programs
to provide medicines, care and education, they said.
David Heymann of the World Health Organization web
estimated that spending $5 billion a year for the next
10 to 15 years could cut in half the number deaths from AIDS,
tuberculosis, malaria and several childhood diseases and
conditions that threaten pregnant women in the developing
"We have solid evidence these tools are effective, and they
have had a great impact in reducing deaths where used
effectively," Heymann told reporters at a news conference.
The report highlighted countries such as Senegal, Uganda and
Thailand, which have curbed HIV infection rates through
increasing access to condoms, counseling and testing and
promoting education about safe sex and needle use.
In Thailand, for example, HIV infection rates among 21-year-old
military enrollees fell to 1.5 percent in 1997 from 4 percent
And in Vietnam, a government program that supplies free
insecticide-treated bed nets and anti-malaria drugs has cut
deaths from that disease by 97 percent over five years, the
The U.N. agencies and World Bank were joined by the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, two
health lobbying groups and the Council on Foreign Relations,
which views health crises as a threat to the world's security.
The groups said they hoped the report would spur action by U.S.
President-elect George W. Bush and the new,
closely divided Congress beyond the $1.4 billion the United
States devoted to global health programs last year.
While some Republicans have questioned whether health epidemics
should be viewed as a national security threat, both parties
have backed worldwide programs such as funding to fight AIDS,
said Chris Lovelace of the World Bank.
"There is good evidence of the potential for bipartisan
support," Lovelace said.