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HIV, NCDs Impact Achievement Of MDGs, Study Says

Unequal progress in achieving U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for tuberculosis and child mortality in low-income countries is related to the countries’ burdens of HIV and non-communicable diseases (NCD), according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine, Reuters reports (Kelland, 3/2).

For the study, researchers calculated the distance 227 countries had to reach their MDG goals for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality targets for the year 2005. They then analyzed the association between the MDG shortcomings and economic development, health spending as a percentage of GDP, real health spending, and HIV/AIDS and NCD burdens, revealing HIV and NCD as possible drivers of inequalities in progress toward MDGs (Stuckler et al., 3/2).

Based on their calculations, the researchers report “[r]educing HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – by 1 percent, or chronic diseases by 10 percent could help boost progress towards child health and tuberculosis targets by the equivalent of more than a decade of economic development,” Reuters writes (3/2).

According to a PLoS Medicine press release, the researchers “found that the traditional explanations, such as economic under-development, low priority of health, inadequate spending by governments, and weak health infrastructure accounted for only a fifth of the inequality in progress. … Until now, both donors and recipients of development assistance have paid little attention to non-communicable diseases, instead targeting their activities to infections” (3/1).

According to Reuters, co-author Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who worked with colleagues at the Universities of Oxford and California, San Francisco, said, “It is important to look at the entire health experience of individuals and families and not focus on just one or a few diseases. … Success in global health means tackling the daily, interconnected risks people living in poor countries face, whether those risks are chronic or infectious.”

Reuters writes, “Tackling joint epidemics of chronic and infectious diseases could especially help countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers said, where progress towards goals had been slowest” (3/2).