Make Bilharzia History!

The Guardian is running an interesting comment today:  “Focus on HIV prevention prevents us from curing a billion people, say scientists.”

As you probably guessed, the gist of the piece is that donors’ overwhelming focus on HIV, malaria and TB has diverted resources away from equally pernicious, wide-spread, and ultimately curable diseases, such as trachoma and bilharzia, which can be treated with a single dose of medication delivered once a year. 

Professor David Molyneux of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine says:  “People at policy level think that only malaria, TB and HIV exist in the third world. This is not true. Neglected tropical diseases as a whole – like sleeping sickness or bilharzia – cause more of a burden than these big-name diseases but are being ignored.”

Wait a minute, surely “people at the policy level” should have an incredibly nuanced understanding of developing world realities?

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  Maybe they just respond to the flavour-of-the-month approach to setting development priorities.  HIV/AIDS is “hot”, so it’s easy to find donor funding and popular support for it.  Imagine trying to start a global “Make Bilharzia History!” campaign.  Yeah, right. 

So who decides which developing world diseases are most important?  Who gets cured from what?  Articles like this remind us of the answer to those questions.

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