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Brussels, 27 September 2000

Invitation to the press

Malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS: Europe spearheads research on diseases affecting the poorest populations

Keywords: malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS

Malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS kill nearly 10,000 people each day in Africa. Malaria is one of the main causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa; tuberculosis is the most common infection in the world and is increasing across the globe; each day an additional 16,000 people are infected by AIDS, including 3,800 in Africa. Although these health problems often originate in contexts related to poverty, they have also become a major obstacle to reducing poverty.

In Brussels on 28 September, a major conference will be devoted to global action against communicable diseases. According to Philippe Busquin, the EU’s Research Commissioner, who will be one the speakers, “The burden of these diseases is now such as to paralyse not only the health sector but also the economic development of the countries concerned. Research on communicable diseases is a major challenge for the development of poor countries and must be implemented in a coherent way at the European level.

Organised by the European Commission in co-operation with the French Presidency of the Union, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the conference will provide an opportunity for the Commission to consult major developing-country partners and other stakeholders on its new policy framework for action against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. These three diseases are the main culprits in early mortality in developing countries (see annexe I). In a communication published on 22 September , the Commission identified three broad areas for targeted action:

The key role of scientific research in the fight against the diseases affecting poor populations was underlined on 31 May 2000 during a summit involving the Presidents of the US, the European Union and the Commission.

The EU already heavily supports research on these diseases and, as a result, is at the forefront in several areas, in particular thanks to the active participation in its programmes of researchers from developing countries. In Europe, partnerships between industry and researchers from the public sector have developed thanks to the EU’s Framework Programmes. The European scientific community and the vaccine industry already work together on malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS – an effort which is unique on the international scene. For AIDS research, for example, more than 20 million euros are at the disposal of the Eurovac research project to identify potential candidate vaccines – plus an 8.6 million euro special grant from the Commission.

Despite these initiatives, substantial progress in the fight against these diseases will not be achieved without a drastic change as far as financing and partnerships are concerned, which implies better co-ordination, especially at the European level. That is why the conference aims to bring together policy-makers and stakeholders from across the world. As far as research activities are concerned, the recent Commission initiative to create a “European Research Area” provides a unique opportunity to improve the co-ordination of programmes and activities undertaken by the EU and its Member States.

In this context, during the coming months the Commission’s Research Directorate-General will be developing strategic work plans, based on a detailed analysis of the state-of-the-art of public and private European research, on six major issues: malaria vaccine; malaria medicines; tuberculosis vaccine; tuberculosis medicines; AIDS vaccine and chemical microbicide-contraceptives; AIDS medicines.

The conference on 28 September will be introduced by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the WHO and Peter Piot, Executive Director on the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. A press lunch will take place at 12.45 with the participation of Mr Busquin. During the afternoon, Mr Busquin will present proposals to improve the co-ordination of European research efforts on the three diseases.

For additional information:

Stéphane Hogan, Quality of Life programme, Research DG
Fax : +32.2.299.1860
E-mail: Research Contact

Michel Claessens, Communication Unit, Research DG
Fax: +32-2-295.82.20
E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu


Annexe 1

Global emergency cause by HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis

HIV/AIDS

  • HIV/AIDS kills over 2 million people in Africa alone each year - more than 10 times the number that perish in wars and armed conflict during the same period.
  • In 1999, 33.6 million people world-wide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS with over 16 million people deaths since the start of the epidemic.
  • 95% of infections are in developing countries with two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV prevalence has reached 30% of the adult population in seven countries.
  • In 1999 an additional 5.6 million people were infected including 570,000 children born to HIV positive mothers.
  • Women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection due to both social and biological factors.
  • 11.2 million children are orphaned due to AIDS.
  • HIV/AIDS spreads fastest in conditions of poverty, social instability and powerlessness. Such conditions are at their most extreme during emergencies.
  • HIV/AIDS is reversing important developmental gains; in parts of Southern Africa, infant mortality has increased by 25% and life expectancy has fallen from 64 to 47 years over a period of just three years.
  • HIV/AIDS affects adults in their economically productive years; per capita income may be reduced by as much as 0.5% per year where more than 8% of adults are infected.
  • Prevention by reducing vulnerability and curbing transmission of the virus remains the most effective strategy to control the spread of the epidemic.
  • The availability of care and medicines for HIV/AIDS has significantly reduced disease and mortality caused by HIV/AIDS in industrialised countries; the vast majority in developing countries are deprived of all drugs including those for treatment of common opportunistic infections.
  • Malaria

  • Malaria kills at least 1 million people each year and infects 500 million people.
  • 90% of cases occur in Africa while 40 percent of the world's population is at risk.
  • The major impact is on women and children - 700,000 children will die from malaria this year - one death every 30 seconds. Women are four times as likely to suffer malaria attacks during pregnancy.
  • Malaria control and treatment costs African countries 1.5% of GDP or EUR 2 billion in 1997.
  • A malaria-stricken family spends over one quarter of its income on malaria treatment. Families pay prevention costs and suffer loss of income from repeated attacks.
  • Complex emergencies and natural disasters increase malaria risk.
  • Malaria is curable if promptly diagnosed and adequately treated.
  • Tuberculosis

  • Tuberculosis (TB) each year kills 2 million people with 95% of deaths occurring in developing countries. TB is the leading cause of death among the HIV positive.
  • TB infection is increasing across the globe with a four-fold increase in several African countries over the past decade and new outbreaks in Eastern Europe after 40 years of steady decline.
  • Over the next 20 years nearly one billion people will be newly infected, 200 million people will get sick, and 35 million will die from TB.
  • A person with infectious TB infects 10-15 people every year.
  • TB affects the weakest and traps people in a cycle of poverty and disease. Most of those affected are in the economically active population with women less likely to be detected and treated.
  • A highly effective cure exists and a course of treatment costs as little as EUR 11.
  • The emergence and spread of multi-drug resistant TB due to inappropriate treatment or compliance with treatment prescriptions represents a global threat.
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    PRESS RELEASES | 27.09.2000