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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
Diseases forgotten in wake of HIV
Image of African women
Many of the 'neglected' diseases are simple to treat
Millions of the world's poorest people are suffering needlessly from diseases that are being ignored, disease expert Professor David Molyneux warns.

The focus on HIV, TB and malaria has meant other diseases have been neglected, he says in the Lancet.

Professor Molyneux, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, argues conditions like leprosy should receive a bigger share of funding.

These are relatively easy and cheap to treat compared with HIV, he says.

Professor Molyneux argues resources are being transferred to interventions against what he calls the "big three" - HIV, tuberculosis and malaria - which have only a limited chance of success.

These diseases are off the radar screen
Researcher Professor Molyneux
"I think international organisations tend to set targets that are simply unachievable.

"If you take HIV, it's going to be extremely difficult to deliver anti-retroviral therapy.

"The target set by the World Health Organization is three million [receiving anti-retroviral treatment in Africa] by the end of 2005. That's extremely hard to do," he said.

Professor Molyneux says money should directed to tropical diseases in the developing world that are currently underfunded yet simple to treat.

"For 25 years there have been several programmes out there, for river blindness, Guinea worm etc, all of which have been extremely well controlled with relatively small amounts of money and are cost effective.

"For the cost of 10 cents in Africa you can prevent things like river blindness. For less than a dollar a year you can get rid of public health problems forever.

Neglected diseases

"If you contrast that with what it costs to provide anti-retroviral treatment for HIV patients, it's probably about 200 dollars per patient per year for the rest of their lives," he said.

"But nobody is saying this, nobody is analysing why this is happening. It's inequitable and possibly unethical," he said.

Professor Molyneux said part of the problem was poor recognition of the diseases.

The 'neglected' diseases
Leprosy
Guinea worm
Elephantiasis
River blindness
Trachoma
"These diseases are off the radar screen. They are major public health problems but they do not have names that people identify with because they do not occur in the West.

"Everybody knows about HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The West identifies with these."

He called for greater awareness and funding for the "neglected" diseases.

"The Global Fund is a major resource that is looking to deploy public resources in the most effective way. But many projects do not hit their targets. What we know about our projects is that they do.

"Allocation of a small fraction of the Global Fund resources to neglected diseases would be likely to achieve broader public health goals," he said.


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