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Of all the deadly infectious diseases that affect the world's poor, it is the 'big three' — HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — that are given the most attention and funding. This leaves several other equally dangerous diseases with little international support to provide people with drugs.

Writing in PLoS Medicine, David Molyneux of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, and colleagues Peter Hotez and Alan Fenwick, call for a radical redistribution of funds towards the 'neglected diseases' that kill 500,000 in developing countries every year.  

Six major public-private partnerships in Africa are helping to provide drugs to treat diseases such as kala-azar, a form of leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis. Molyneux and colleagues say that if these programmes were integrated, they could treat patients of seven major neglected diseases in Africa for just US$0.40 per person per year.

In contrast, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa costs more than US$200 per person per year, and tuberculosis costs about US$200 per treatment.

Neglected diseases affect at least as many people as the 'big three', say the researchers.

If the world wants to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing disease and poverty worldwide, they say, neglected diseases will need to be given far more attention than they currently receive.

Link to full paper in PLoS Medicine

Reference: PLoS Medicine 2 (2005)