Our Motivation

The term “Global Health” once was synonymous with “international health.” Used in the context of bilateral relationships between donor and recipient nations, the term described activities aimed at addressing infectious diseases, maternal and child health, primary health care, and other public health issues in developing countries.

Over time, however, the meaning of the term has evolved—xan outcome of globalization and the unprecedented speed of cross-border infection in the 21st century.

Against the backdrop of growing awareness of common global threats to the health of their citizens, governments began to acknowledge the need to work together to devise effective countermeasures.

Global health still includes the initial notion of international health, but its mission has expanded to include everyone—to reduce health disparities and protect the world against threats that have little respect for national borders, or for whether a country is rich or poor. It now encompasses the battle against emerging challenges, such as SARS and recent influenza epidemics.

Since the year 2000 or so, the global health community has increasingly focused on three of the deadliest threats to human health—HIV, tuberculosis and malaria—priorities enshrined in the language of the UN Millennium Goals, which include a commitment to reduce the number of deaths caused by the diseases known as the Big 3.

Today the number of critical priorities for global health continues to expand. A lack of universal health coverage in many nations, and the impact of climate change, mental illness, non-communicable diseases and other threats on human health are increasingly viewed as significant public health risks. Addressing such challenges continues to offer new opportunities for broadening the sense of what we mean by the term global health.
The international development community has set eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are aimed at combating extreme poverty and its manifestations. A 2015 deadline has been set to reach these goals, which were based on a declaration adopted at the United Nations Millennium Summit, convened in September 2000 in New York.

The MDGs related to global health include Goal 4 (Reduce Child Mortality), Goal 5 (Improve Maternal Health), Goal 6 (Combat HIV/AIDS and Other Diseases) and Goal 8 (Global Partnership for Development).

In the following pages, we will explain why the GHIT Fund was created and how it is tackling the Millennium Development Goals-- specifically Goal 6 (Combat HIV/AIDS and Other Diseases) and Goal 8 (Global Partnership for Development).

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has reported that as of 2012, 35.3 million people worldwide were infected with HIV, with 1.7 million AIDS deaths. Since the start of the AIDS crisis, some 25 million people have perished of HIV-related illnesses around the world.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, about one in every 20 adults is infected with HIV, and around 69% of all HIV patients worldwide are concentrated in this region. There are 3.4 million HIV-infected African children, almost all infected at birth by their mothers.

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS today, antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) allow patients to live longer with a higher quality of life. As of 2012, a total of 9.7 million people in developing nations were receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART). Use of these drugs has reduced HIV infections and deaths compared to the peak of the disease a decade ago. However, close to 16 million people who need treatment are unable to obtain it. In addition, better HIV diagnostics are needed, as well as drugs formulated for HIV-infected children.


About 219 million people are infected with malaria, which kills some 660,000 people every year, according to 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. Close to 90% of these deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. Every second, the disease kills a child under five years old.

Malaria prevention methods include insecticide-treated bed nets and insect repellants to protect against the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite.

Malaria infections require immediate diagnosis and treatment, no easy task in developing nations with limited health care. To effectively treat malaria, the patient must take multiple drugs on a set schedule.

Drug-resistant malaria has emerged as a growing problem in recent years. Resistance to artemisinin – currently the most effective anti-malarial drug – was reported in 2009 on the Thai-Cambodian border and has spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, underscoring the need for new drugs and a vaccine to effectively fight the disease.

Tuberculosis (TB) infected 8.7 million in 2011, causing 1.4 million deaths, according to the WHO. An overwhelming 95% of the fatalities occurred in low- to middle-income countries, where many HIV-infected patients also have TB. HIV/AIDS and TB together form the most lethal combination of diseases on the planet. Of all the people who have AIDS, more die of TB than any other disease. TB caused about a quarter of all HIV-related deaths and 60% of the tuberculosis deaths were in Asia.

The year 2011 also saw nearly 70,000 TB deaths in children worldwide. Despite the scale of this crisis, few realize that TB poses a dire threat to children as well as adults.

The complexity and expense of anti-TB drugs has aggravated the crisis. WHO recommends that TB patients take multiple medications for six months or more under the supervision of a medical professional. Patients in developing countries can’t always follow these regimens, and the inconsistent use of the drugs has lead to the evolution of TB-resistant bacteria. Outbreaks of “multiple-drug-resistant TB” (MDR-TB) and “extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis” (XDR-TB)–the latter incurable by first- and second-line drugs—has rendered effective treatment increasingly difficult. In addition, many patients in developing countries cannot afford TB drugs. .

Tuberculosis has plagued mankind since ancient times. Suppressing the modern-day strains of the disease will require the development of drugs with shorter treatment periods and fewer side effects, and a vaccine.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), also known as “the burden of the bottom billion,” are prevalent among the poorest groups in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and South America. These diseases often cause chronic mental or physical disorders.

Unlike recently emerging infections such as HIV/AIDS, SARS and avian influenza, NTDs have been around since ancient times. Some are even mentioned in texts such as the Bible and the Tale of Genji in Japan. They flourish in periods of desperate poverty and social disruption.

Even at the end of World War II, for example, many Japanese were infected with soil-transmitted parasites, and other conditions such as malaria, tapeworm, and schistosomiasis reappeared. Postwar Japan subdued these diseases through the collective efforts of the government, medical experts, and the population. But these diseases continue to plague the poorest people in the developing world.

In Angola, the Republic of the Congo, Sudan and some other African nations, many NTDs had largely been overcome in earlier periods, only to reemerge amid wars and domestic conflicts that caused the decline of public health and hygiene.

(The group of 17 NTDs recognized by WHO)
1. Dengue fever
2. Rabies
3. Trachoma
4. Buruli ulcer
5. Endemic treponematoses (including yaws)
6. Leprosy
7. Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis)
8. Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
9. Leishmaniasis
10. Cysticercosis
11. Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm diseases)
12. Echinococcosis
13. Foodborne trematode infections
14. Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis)
15. Onchoserciasis (river blindness)
16. Schistosomiasis (bilharziasis)
17. Soil-transmitted helminthiases (intestinal parasitic worms)
Why do “NTDs” continue to be neglected?

In 1998, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto used the Group of Eight (G8) Summit in Okinawa, Kyushu to unveil the Okinawa Infectious Diseases Initiative. Subsequently, Hashimoto’s government played a key role in establishing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The global community has mobilized against these Big 3 infectious diseases because of their high prevalence and mortality rates, and their social and economic impact.

Major investments have given impoverished people access to drugs against HIV and TB, mosquito nets to curb the spread of malaria, and other support. The so-called Neglected Tropical Diseases, meanwhile, have largely been relegated to the status of “other diseases,” and received relatively few funds. Impoverished people infected with these diseases are still a neglected presence in international society.

Overcoming infectious diseases generally improves living conditions, which in turn reduces the risk of contracting infectious diseases.

People in developing nations today are at risk of infection from many tropical diseases, including those designated as NTDs. Of the 60 countries where five or more tropical diseases are currently transmitted, 40 are in Africa, nine in Asia, five in Latin America, and two in the Middle East.

Research and development (R&D) efforts are required to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of each of the NTDs. Yet the international community remains largely unaware of these needs because the illnesses are often confined to rural communities and other isolate and impoverished areas. The global community has had few opportunities to quantify the degree of the problem posed by such diseases. Thus, support to fight them is dwarfed by assistance channeled toward HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.

Unlike HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB, NTDs are not typically fatal. They do, however, create suffering and disabilities that can last a lifetime. For example, childhood infections from soil-transmitted parasites or schistosomiasis can result in long-term anemia, delayed growth, impaired cognition, and memory problems. Infections in pregnant women may lead to low-birth-weight infants, maternal mortality, and other tragedies. Onchoserciasis, trachoma, and other illnesses can manifest in permanent visual impairment or even blindness, while Chagas’ disease causes chronic and critical heart diseases. Lymphatic filaria leaves patients with permanent disabilities and disfigurement.

Over the medium to long term, these chronic impairments seriously undermine patients’ quality of life. Their symptoms cause patients to become targets of stigma and discrimination, with devastating social and medical consequences. Data have increasingly shown that NTDs wreak social and economic havoc on individuals, their countries, and entire regions in much the same way as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

DALYs:Disability Adjusted Life Years
The sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability.

In addition to being serious threats in their own right, infectious diseases in developing nations feed a vicious cycle of social maladies and poverty.

The poorest of the poor often live in environments plagued by substandard hygiene. Poverty and poor sanitary conditions amplify the risk of contracting infectious diseases. Infection with diseases like HIV, TB, malaria, or NTDs keeps individuals from attending school or going to work. This saps the social and economic vitality of families, communities and entire countries.

As a result, many people in developing nations find it daunting if not impossible to escape the clutches of poverty. The inability to attain better living conditions leaves them vulnerable to infectious disease. And thus the vicious cycle continues.

The use of vaccines to prevent infectious diseases, and effective drugs to treat them when they occur, significantly improve quality of life. Better health opens the door to school and employment, and invigorates social and economic activities.

Overcoming infectious diseases generally improves public living conditions, which in turn reduces the risk of contracting infectious diseases.

Infectious disease is only one of the many problems faced by the developing nations of the world. However, as the WHO has noted, finding solutions to the challenge of these diseases will give developing nations a huge boost toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. The virtuous cycle certain to emerge in the wake of such victories will have a profound impact on health and economic prosperity.