International News

HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Account for 80% of Disease Funding in Developing Countries, Report Says

February 6, 2009

HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives accounted for about 80% of the $2.5 billion that was spent on research and drug development for developing countries in 2007, according to a report published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine, Reuters reports. In the report, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers from the George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney wrote that other tropical diseases kill millions of people in developing countries but do not receive the same attention or funding as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria (Tan, Reuters, 2/4).

The study found that HIV/AIDS accounts for 42% of funding, malaria accounts for 18% and TB accounts for 16%. However, neglected diseases such as pneumonia and diarrheal illness, which are two major causes of mortality in developing countries, received less than 6% of funding (Jack, Financial Times, 2/4). According to the report, diarrheal illness caused 1.8 million deaths in 2005, but received only 4.5% of global funding. In addition, diseases such as sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease affect more than 13 million people worldwide annually but receive 4.9% of global health funding. Leprosy, rheumatic fever and typhoid also each receive less than $10 million, or 0.4% of total funds. According to the report, this amount of funding "was not enough to create even one new product" to address many of these diseases.

The report also examined groups that contributed to disease efforts for developing countries and found that public and philanthropic donors granted $2.3 billion, or 90%, of total funding in 2007 (Reuters, 2/4). According to the report, the U.S. accounted for about 70% of the total public spending on neglected diseases (VOA News, 2/4). NIH and the Gates Foundation accounted for 60% of the total funds donated, with the European Commission, U.S. Department of Defense and USAID contributing the next highest amount. The pharmaceutical industry accounted for 9% of the total spending, the report said (Financial Times, 2/4). Other major funders included Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia and Sweden. However, many wealthy industrialized nations were not among the leading donors for neglected tropical diseases, the report said.

The authors write that it is "remarkable that investment by some private firms is now rivaling or exceeding spending by many public organizations," adding, "While we commend these companies and philanthropists, their efforts are meant to support, not replace, those of wealthy governments around the world." The authors also said that some donors do not make investment decisions based on "scientific or epidemiological considerations" but are "influenced by factors such as the presence of advocacy and fundraising groups; by funder perceptions or preferences; or by the presence of policy frameworks and funding mechanisms that prioritize specific diseases" (Reuters, 2/4). According to the authors, research funding levels for a particular disease often have little correlation with the burden of that disease. Mary Moran, lead author of the study, said, "Some of the biggest or cruelest killers like pneumonia and Buruli ulcer have few advocates, no global funds and nowhere near the attention they deserve" (Hall, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/5).

Online The report is available online.

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