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"The G8 Moves on Malaria and AIDS"

By Rose Bulaong

Volume 2, Issue 10
Sunday, May 17, 1998

BIRMINGHAM - Although Japan and France have come to the G8 summit to pitch a policy agenda on infectious diseases, Britian has picked up the ball and is running with it. The G8 announced in its communique a new initative to eradicate malaria in approximately 30 years.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged 60-million pounds to the global programme to combat malaria.

Five-hundred million cases crop up every year. Two- to three- million deaths occur per year, of which one-million children under the age of five die annually.

The project will focus specifically on the mosquito-born disease. Health officials are anxious it has exhibited resistance to some existing drugs.

British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short warned malaria, which was eliminated from Europe only after the Second World War, is spreading.

"New strains are appearing...it's pushing its way into South Africa, it's pushing back into parts of the Caribbean it was pushed out of, it's going into America," said Short.

The largely preventive program will be coordinated by the World Health Organization, and encompass Unicef, the Organization of African Unity and large pharmaceutical companies.

The Birmingham communique pledges to support the "Roll Back Malaria" iniative programme. In addition, the communique promises to "reduce the global scourge of AIDS through vaccine development, preventive programmes and appropriate therapy." The French proposal of a "Therapeutic Solidarity Intiative" was mentioned specifically in the statement.

Among the G8 countries, Japan has voiced the strongest support for malaria and other parasitic disease. Japan introduced to the summit a four-pronged strategy to cope with parasitic diseases, and France concentrated on ways to combat AIDS.

In addition, peripheral comment was made by US spokesman Mike McCurry, who said the US would like to "put Africa more prominently on the radar screen," especially with respect to children's moraltiy rates.

But Blair comes out on top today by pledging a firm dollar figure to bolster the G8 promise. Other countries, however, have focused on other infectious diseases at the summit.

France has developed an agenda based on the spread of HIV, particularly in Africa. The French document on the issue tells how 40 per cent of pregnant women in the region are HIV positive. It also refers to the mutations of the virus and the way AIDS has triggered fresh upsurges of contamination the world over. France suggests that new treatments need to be made widely available to developing countries.

As pointed out in a lengthy Japanese document called "A Report on Global Parasite Control," parasites and their vectors (which transmit parasites to humans) do not respect national boundaries, and their geographical distribution often crosses international borders. Japan's agenda includes strategies such as internatonal cooperation for the implementation of parasite control, pursuit of research, implementation of parasite control projects, and strengthening the G8 countries' capabilities to deal with parasitic diseases.

Parasite control was raised by Japan at the previous summit in Denver. In the 1997 communique, the G7 pledged to "promote more effective coordination of international responses to outbreakss (and) promote development of a global surveillance network." Individual countries were encouraged to link their activities, and the WHO was supported in its global effort.

Japan notes that G8 countries have experience in implementing such programs and has successfully eradicated some parasitic infections, both in their own countries and abroad.

This year's effort fails to set specific targets for eliminating malaria by the year 2010, but coordinating existing efforts by various countries may help reduce the number deaths.

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