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Disease means poverty. More than ever before it is an obstacle to economic development. Communicable diseases constitute 60% of the disease burden of developing countries, the major killers being AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. Although largely preventable and/or treatable, they kill about 5 million people each year.

Through its Fifth Framework Programme, the European Commission has invested increasingly in research targeting these diseases. For the period 1999-2002, around Euro130 million have been earmarked for research on AIDS, TB and malaria.

Following a decision at the G8 summit in Okinawa (July 2000) to accelerate action against these diseases, the EU is now active in three major areas: optimising existing activities in developing countries; making key pharmaceuticals more affordable; and investing in research into new medicines and vaccines.

Strengthening support for R&D requires innovative partnerships (notably with industry) and reinforced co-ordination. The European scientific community is already working with the vaccine industry in a unique international collaboration. But better co-ordination is necessary to expand R&D even further, to accept a greater degree of investment risk, and to move from serial to parallel testing of candidate drugs/vaccines. In this respect, the recent Commission initiative to create a European Research Area provides the ideal opportunity to improve research programmes and activities undertaken by the Member States.

This long-term strategy should enable the EU to contribute to facing the major challenge of poverty-related disease by confronting growing epidemics and reducing the ravages of AIDS, TB and malaria in the developing world.


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Communicable Diseases