"Yesterday's vote was a significant first step in helping to ensure that our country plays a leadership role in ending the neglect of these diseases," said Kari Stoever, managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. "Around the world, children and families are being devastated by diseases that can be effectively and affordably prevented and treated."
NTDs are parasitic and bacterial infections that blind, disfigure, stigmatize and kill, trapping communities in a cycle of poverty and disease. Research and on-the-ground success show that eliminating NTDs not only lifts people out of poverty, primarily by increasing access to education and improving economic development, but also helps the United States improve its efforts around other targets of foreign assistance. For example, one annual treatment for the NTD schistosomiasis can also prevent the development of genital lesions in females that increase their likelihood of acquiring HIV infection later in life; treating for NTDs can also help alleviate the health burdens associated with malaria.
For the first time, regional elimination of some of the most prevalent NTDs is feasible before 2015 through the use of existing treatments. Thanks to generous and unprecedented donations from the pharmaceutical industry, the seven most common NTDs that represent 90 percent of the disease burden can be treated for approximately 50 cents per person, per year. Costs are even lower in specific countries and regions. For as little as $150 million, three NTDs could be eliminated in Latin America and the Caribbean representing a 75% reduction in disease burden.
Community and nationwide NTD programs already have the absorptive capacity to scale up NTD control and elimination efforts. Across sub-Saharan Africa, over 480,000 community volunteers have been trained to deliver drugs to communities suffering from NTDs through a bottom-up approach that strengthens health systems. This network of community drug distributors is effectively reaching more than 50 million people a year with drugs to treat NTDs. Through regional strategies and national leadership, poverty could be greatly reduced and maternal and child health vastly improved.
"The Global Network thanks Senator Leahy and members of the subcommittee for their leadership. If we all work together to build upon this initial investment, we can truly begin to end the neglect and lift countless millions out of poverty while also alleviating the burden of other global health pandemics such as HIV/AIDS and malaria," Stoever noted.