The European Commission (DG Research) organized an International Conference on Poverty-Related Diseases (PRDs) in Brussels on 13 and 14 November 2008. The aim of the Conference was to increase the impact of EU-funded research on controlling PRDs. Leading scientists, research managers, decision-makers, funding agencies and representatives of relevant international NGOs attended, with significant participation from disease-endemic countries.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS, is spreading worldwide with devastating consequences. During the last 20 years, the disease has killed 20 million people and today, more than 40 million people are living with the virus. Researchers and policy-makers have been working to reduce the spread of the epidemic and provide adequate treatment to those infected. Unfortunately, efforts so far have been unable to provide a vaccine or a definitive cure.
The EC's multifaceted approach is aimed at improving research concerning the prevention of future infections and the treatment of people currently living with the disease.
Malaria is a public health problem in over 100 Countries worldwide, inhabited by some 40% of the world population. There are about 300 million clinical cases and almost 1 million deaths each year, mainly in tropical countries. Mortality has risen in recent years, probably due to increasing resistance to antimalarial medicines. Controlling the disease requires an integrated approach comprising prevention (including vector transmission), and treatment with effective drugs. Major research efforts are still needed in order to develop a highly effective vaccine as well as new drugs for malaria.
Approximately eight million people develop active tuberculosis (TB) each year, with two million dying from the disease. TB is also a leading killer among HIV-infected people.
The emergence of multidrug resistance and extensive drug resistance constitute the most important factor for the persistence of TB as a global public health problem. Prevention through vaccination could be the most effective intervention but, as yet, no vaccine useful against TB in adult populations is available. TB continues to present great challenges to vaccine and drug progress.
The goals of the Conference were to:
- regain political momentum for continuing and intensifying research addressing the “big three” global killer diseases;
- set the scene by reporting on research efforts supported by the EC since 2002, when HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB first became a separate research focus under the EU's 6th Framework Programme;
- gather input from relevant stakeholders (scientists from Europe and disease-endemic countries, industries, global partners, etc.) in order to set research priorities on PRDs for the remainder of the 7th Framework Programme.