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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
G8 take on infectious disease
Aids patient
Millions are infected with the HIV virus
The World Health Organisation has called on the G8 countries to increase debt relief and aid to countries stricken by infectious disease.

This is one of the issues on the agenda of the forthcoming G8 summit in Okinawa, and the group may set numerical targets to curb infection rates in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria by 2005 and 2010.


A substantial increase in development assistance is necessary, including debt relief funds when they become available

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO
The meeting could also lead to the creation of an international co-ordination committee, and a fund to fight disease.

Some of the proposals include the provision of mosquito nets to countries with a high malaria risk, and the funding of vaccines to developing countries.

But the WHO says that a pledge made by the heads of state of developing countries to free their citizens from infectious disease will be tough for the poorest countries to address.

Its director-general, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland told a pre-meeting in Japan on Wednesday: "Developing societies cannot prosper unless their people are healthy.

"What would Africa's GDP be now if malaria had been tackled thirty years ago, when effective control measures first became available?

" $100bn greater than it is now. What will happen to the economies of developing nations severely affected by HIV? A decline in GDP of at least 1% per year.

"A substantial increase in development assistance is necessary, including debt relief funds when they become available."

One out of every two deaths in the developing world are now due to infectious diseases - yet many could have been prevented by simple community health measures costing no more than $5 a person, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The WHO has recently estimated that the international community needs to invest $1.5bn every year for the next decade to stop the spread of the six big killer infectious diseases:

Malaria
Malaria is a public health problem in some 90 countries, and causes between 1.5 and 2.7 million deaths world-wide each year.

HIV/Aids
Aids, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is linked to the HIV virus, which can be passed from human to human through blood to blood contact.

In 1999, an estimated 5.4m were newly-infected - now a total of more than 50m are infected worldwide.

Nearly 19m have died since the epidemic first took hold in the early 1980s, and more than 13m orphans have been left to fend for themselves.

Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a lung disease caused by infection with a bacterium.

Poor living conditions make people vulnerable to the disease.

Measles
Characterised by the purple-spotted skin rash and high temperatures, this disease can cause permanent disability or even kill.

In developing countries, where poorer nutrition and living conditions have reduced children's natural immune response to the virus infection, it is fatal far more often.

Diarrhoeal Diseases
Clean water prevents outbreaks of diarrhoeic disease.

Poor hygiene and water supplies are the main factors behind the spread of diseases like dysentery and cholera.

Acute respiratory infections
Pneumonia is a term used to refer to a variety of lung infections caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites.

One of the most dangerous forms is Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, which is prevented in many parts of the world by vaccination.

Young children in developing countries, many immuno-suppressed and suffering from other infections, find it extremely difficult to fight off the disease.

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See also:

26 Jul 99 | Medical notes
Malaria
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
22 Jan 00 | Health
Baby killer disease 'explained'
23 Jul 99 | Health
Hope for diarrhoea vaccine
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