Developing nations suffer acutely from health epidemics due to lack of resources to adequately combat these epidemics. Many of these epidemics are managed reasonable well in developed nations but with low socioeconomic levels and poor living conditions, coupled with weak health infrastructure, diseases such as enteric and diarrheal diseases and AIDS are still major killers in developing nations:
- Enteric (gastrointestinal) and diarrheal diseases are a major cause of childhood death in developing nations, killing about 550,000 children under age 5 each year. For those that do survive this disease spend their entire life with ongoing health problems such as weaker immune responses, stunted growth and cognitive development.
While there has been some success in overcoming this disease, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.
Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have come to the aid of this epidemic by advancing the development of safe, affordable, and effective vaccines for the leading causes of diarrheal and enteric diseases in low and middle class countries. They are also heavily involved in research and clinical trials for how to deploy new interventions and expand the use of existing ones. Since 1999 $2.5 billion have been committed from the Gates Foundation.
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an epidemic that has killed tens of millions of people throughout the world since the early 1980s. Today over 36 million people currently live with HIV. 70% of those people currently are residing in the sub-Saharan Africa region. Unfortunately, many people living in this area of the world do not have access to prevention, care or treatment. While there have been advances in fighting this terrible disease, there currently is still no cure.
Despite these challenges, new global efforts have started to address the epidemic within the last 10 years or so. amfAR is an international nonprofit organization that is dedicated to support AIDS research and HIV prevention. Over its 25-year history, the organization has invested more than $366 million in its programs, which has created significant advances in fighting this fatal disease.
Some of their accomplishments include the establishment of a Community-Based Clinical Trial Network, which has expanded research capability and expedited drug approvals. In addition they have supported international studies in places like Kenya, Nepal and Asia, as well funded new treatments and vaccines.
With the generosity of the Gates Foundation amfAR and others alike, the development of safe, affordable and effective treatments or preventative measures for these epidemics in low and middle-income countries are now becoming more and more available. It is critical that such organizations continue to invest in scientifically sound research and policies so that low income nations can have better tools to manage these diseases.