Diagnosis, disease and poverty May04
single day, 20,000 people die from AIDS, 20,000 from Malaria and 10,000
from Tuberculosis (TB). More people die from these diseases than in any
war or from any natural disaster. Although it takes only £2.50 per person
to treat Malaria, £5 to treat TB and £100 to treat and manage AIDS, we
do so little to prevent the deaths of millions of our fellow beings. Their
despair, misery, suffering and deaths are not portrayed on our television
screens. The loss of their children, their workforce and the devastation
of their livelihood do not register in our minds. They are poor and they
are we doing to help them?
2000, I was the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for “Combating
communicable diseases: HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB”. In this Report, I
outlined a global strategy to fight these diseases specifying the
financial commitment required as well as the need for tiered pricing for
poor countries to make medication affordable. I indicated the importance
of distinctive packaging for such preferentially lower priced medication
to ensure supply to patients in poor countries and prevent re-exportation
to western countries. I emphasised the need for training of medical
personnel for diagnosis, treatment and after-care as well as investment in
research to develop vaccines for prevention of these diseases.
Report was well received by the European Parliament, the EU, the western
countries, UN, WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF and established charitable foundations
like the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. It was recognised, as I had
proposed, that a Global Fund would be needed to launch a campaign to help
fight these diseases worldwide. Mr. Kofi Anan, the UN Secretary General,
initiated the Global Fund supported by many countries and international
health agencies like the Red Cross, Medicins Sans Frontieres and Oxfam.
can we ensure efficient use of financial and human resources to fight
present, there is no scientific data for each developing country to
indicate the number of people, including their location, who suffer from
these diseases. Furthermore, there is no data to indicate how many may be
carriers of the HIV virus and unknowingly infecting others. Most of the
poor live in rural areas without access to clinics with diagnostic
facility. Even if they begin to suffer from symptoms, they are financially
unable to travel to the capital city or the nearest large town where they
could be identified, tested and treated.
neither the donor nor the recipient developing country have an accurate
means to assess the number of people infected and where they live. This
does not allow anyone to budget, secure medication, train medical
personnel and target the sick and those who are carriers of these killer
diseases. Both prevention and treatment cannot be efficiently managed
without a ‘disease infection area’
(DIA) map on a regional basis for each developing country.
Infection Area (DIA) maps can be established by having mobile diagnostic
laboratories (MDL) equipped with diagnostic testing equipment to test for
the three diseases. These MDLs need to be manned with medical personnel
and appropriate IT equipment to record patient data, including the
geographic location. The MDLs can identify the patient, test, advise and
feed its data to a central national and international database. This
database will enable to compile DIA maps for each developing country. Such
maps would inform and allow the donors and recipient governments to
target/treat the patients and carriers most effectively.
DIA maps for each developing country and their periodic reviews would be
of interest to pharmaceutical manufacturers, research institutions and
world agencies. Such information could raise substantial funds that could
help in financing the work of MDLs.
every human life is precious, death from violence – man killing man –
is news. We find the acts of terror and of suicide bombers horrific. Such
killings attract immediate response from major western nations but death
from curable diseases is neither reported nor perceived as equally
shocking and unacceptable. We must help the poor – their lives should
matter to us too!