Audio: US Plays Unique Role in Fighting Deadliest Diseases
Over the past two decades, the U.S. government, American businesses and private individuals have joined in unprecedented collaborations to study the world's most dangerous diseases -- and to help more people around the world receive medical care for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other maladies. These efforts have had a huge positive impact. HIV is now survivable, the number of AIDS orphans has declined dramatically, and in some countries, entire medical care systems have been transformed.
Looking back over 25 years ago, there was no AIDS cure. Treatment was limited. The diagnosis ... a death sentence. Two American doctors, Eric Goosby and Anthony Fauci, were there at the beginning and are still working to stop this disease. Dr. Fauci heads AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health. Under his guidance, we now have a better understanding of AIDS. We know how to keep it from spreading, and we have treatments that have transformed AIDS into a chronic disease.
"We can, in the reasonable future, look forward to an AIDS free generation. That's an important impact that has come from a number of resources, but predominately from the research at NIH," he stated.
Ambassador Eric Goosby M.D, who heads the Office of Global Health Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, has helped developing countries build clinics and set up systems to treat AIDS. Dr. Goosby says these countries are taking leadership roles in health care planning and the talk is now about treating other infectious diseases as well as chronic diseases like high blood pressure. Private groups such as the Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have also provided critical support.
"If we can do it for HIV, we can do it for those diseases, and that is the moment I think we're in for -- services to be added on top of this already existing platform to serve the people who are HIV positive, but also those in the community that have other diseases that are not associated with HIV," said Goosby.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an agency that also works internationally and provides critical leadership in relieving the global burden of disease. Dr. Thomas Frieden is it's director.
"We need to make sure that we do everything that we can to stop measles and rubella, to reduce meningitis and waterborne and forborne diseases," he said. "But first, we need to prepare the world to work together to address cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, things that are largely preventable with the tools that we have today."
Diseases change constantly. New ones develop. Old ones mutate. Drugs that once contained them no longer work. These changes threaten the health and security of every nation in the world. And that's why medical collaboration is more important today than ever before, according to the head of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins.
"The idea that health can be restricted to one country and treated as if it's not connected to the rest of the world simply doesn't work anymore," Collins noted.
The doctors say the US needs to continue its leadership in medical research and its collaboration with other countries as equal partners in global health to benefit people everywhere.