Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

HIV/AIDS, Hunger and Malaria Are the World's Most Urgent Problems, Say Economists

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

HIV/AIDS, Hunger and Malaria Are the World's Most Urgent Problems, Say Economists

Article excerpt

The top global priority for spending on international aid is combating HIV/AIDS, concluded an international panel of economists, following the week-long Copenhagen Consensus conference which took place in Denmark at the end of May. The eight economists--three of them Nobel laureates--also placed efforts to combat hunger and the eradication of malaria at the top of the list.

Their report, commissioned by Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute and the British news journal, The Economist, concluded that 28 million cases of HIV/AIDS could be prevented by 2010 and that although the cost of this would be US$ 27 billion, the benefits could be almost forty times as high.

"Fighting disease is a good investment," said expert panelist, Bruno Frey. "Disease causes nine out of ten preventable deaths in developing countries among children and adults."

The panelists were asked to consider a list of ten global challenges established through a cost-benefit analysis: civil conflict, climate change, communicable diseases, education, financial stability, governance, hunger and malnutrition, migration, trade reform, and water and sanitation. Their task was to allocate a hypothetical US$ 50 billion to solve some of the world's most important challenges. The panelists unanimously recommended spending US$ 27 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, US$ 12 billion to fight malnutrition and US$ 13 billion to fight malaria.

"The starting point of the Copenhagen Consensus is that the world faces many problems, and we cannot afford to solve them all, here and now ... HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, trade barriers, and malaria--these are problems that can be addressed effectively," said The Economist Deputy Editor, Clive Crook, who participated in the experts' meeting.

Expanding programmes to prevent the spread of HIV infection was ranked as the top priority. Distributing micronutrients to combat malnutrition came second with trade liberalization third and malaria prevention and treatment fourth. In selecting HIV/AIDS, the panel agreed with a paper presented by health economist Anne Mills of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In her paper, Mills argued that spending US$ 60 billion to promote condom use and distribute antiretroviral drugs--particularly in sub-Saharan Africa--would save US$ 3 trillion in healthcare costs and human productivity. The panelists' recommendations focused on prevention strategies rather than treatment because of "the rapid change of drug prices and the lack of clear data on outcome, which make calculating the cost-benefit ratio of treatment difficult. …

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