Since the world has been focused on the bad news about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, folks can be forgiven for missing some good news about epidemic diseases.
The British medical journal Lancet reports that new HIV infections have dropped by one-third from their epidemic peak; sub-Saharan Africa has seen a 31 percent decline in children’s deaths from malaria; and tuberculosis deaths declined by 3.7 percent since 2000.
At the global level, upward trends for malaria and HIV deaths have been reversed and declines in tuberculosis deaths have accelerated. More than 100 countries (74 of which are developing) still have increasing HIV incidence, however. “Substantial progress since the Millennium Declaration is an encouraging sign of the effect of global action,” the Lancet authors stated.
Most malaria cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Even there, the problem is concentrated in two countries—Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside of Africa, “Malaria mortality has been steadily declining since 1990 as well, but Yemen, India, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea all have malaria death rates over 7.5 per 100,000,” a news release about the study stated. “By contrast, certain countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia) have achieved very low death rates.”
“Great progress has been made in reducing malaria deaths and infections, but we need more success stories throughout Africa in particular for us to eliminate malaria,” Corine Karema, of Rwanda Ministry of Health stated in the release. “Malaria is notoriously difficult to early diagnose, treat promptly using efficacious drugs, and track, and part of the strategy in fighting it is to invest in gathering better evidence through a robust surveillance system.”
For TB, death rates declined mostly among people who are HIV-negative.
“Men and boys make up the majority of TB cases among people who are HIV-negative and die at higher rates (64.7 percent) than HIV-negative women and girls with TB. In 2013, 83.2 percent of cases and 58.8 percent of deaths in HIV-negative people with TB occurred under age 60,” the release states.
Dealing with the global HIV epidemic has been notably successful. Antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and prophylaxis have all slowed the disease.
“Researchers note that the comparatively low price per year of life saved is one of the major achievements in global health in the past decade,” the Lancet report states.
“Comparison of the total amount invested in HIV prevention and treatment to the years of life saved during 2000–2011 yields in developing countries a ratio of $4,498 per life-year saved. In 2011, all donors combined spent $7.7 billion on HIV/AIDS.”