Canada is Leading the Fight to End AIDS, TB and Malaria for Good

 

Introduction by Patrick Bidulka 

McGill University was fortunate to participate in the Global Fund Replenishment conference held in Montreal this September. The Global Fund side event at McGill, organized by the McGill Global Health Programs office, saw a high turn-out of world-class global health researchers and students. With its contribution of nearly $800 million, Canada has repositioned itself as a key contributor to the field of global health, and a stakeholder in the mission of the Global Fund to end HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria for good. However, as the Honorable Jane Philpott said as she addressed the event, these goals will not translate into tangible results until society collectively deems current health disparities as “outrageous, and solvable”. It is outrageous that a third of the world is infected with TB, with the majority of those infected being in developing countries. It is outrageous that here in Canada, we have a TB epidemic concentrated in our Aboriginal communities, where the rate of TB in Indigenous populations is 34 times higher than in non-Indigenous Canadians. It is outrageous that here in Canada, there are 50 new infections of HIV every week, and this rate has not changed in the last two decades. And so, it is these glaring inequalities that must be recognized, and deemed outrageous by more than just researchers and health care workers, but collectively by the global population. Progress has been paralyzed by barriers such as stigma, racism, gender inequality, and prejudice against LGBTQ people. It is not until these basic issues surrounding human rights are resolved that we can truly put an end to AIDS, TB and Malaria. As Mark Dybul, CEO of The Global Fund said at the McGill side event, “To end these diseases, we must become better humans”.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

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Dr. Madhukar Pai & Dr. David Eidelman

As Montreal gears up to host the biggest leaders in global health, it is our hope that Canada will go well beyond provision of international aid, and find a way to harness the abundant scientific talent in Canada. Doing so will not only amplify the financial contributions by Canadians, but also show our global solidarity.

The past year has seen the re-emergence of Canada in the international development arena. In addition to maternal and child health, if there is one area where Canada is showing tremendous leadership, it is in the fight against the “big three” — AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — infections that kill over 3 million people each year.

To tackle the big three, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was created in 2002. The Global Fund raises resources, engages a variety of partners, and invests funds in supporting programs to tackle the epidemics. Programs supported by theGlobal Fund have saved 20 million lives, by providing 9.2 million people with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 15.1 million people with testing and treatment for TB, and 659 million mosquito bed nets to prevent malaria.

Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health.

If the Global Fund is to continue making progress towards ending these epidemics for good, it needs to be replenished by donor governments, private foundations, corporations, and philanthropists — and Canada is showing the world how to get this done!

On September 16-17, 2016, the Government of Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference in Montreal that will bring world leaders to set funding for the next three years. The Global Fund has set a target of raising US$13 billion. Canada has already pledged CAN$785 million, a 20 increase compared to the last round. The USA has pledged up to US$4.3 billion, France has pledged €1.08 billion, and Germany has pledged €800 million. These pledges, hopefully, will inspire others to contribute and meet the target of US $13 billion which can save an additional 8 million lives.

In addition to supporting the Global Fund, the Government of Canada has made a renewed investment of CAN$85 million for the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative, to reach, treat and cure many of the 3.6 million people affected by TB who every year go without proper care. The Government of Canada has also invested inGrand Challenges Canada, an agency that is funding several innovative projects in TB, HIV and Malaria.

We can be proud of all these developments that show commitment and leadership from the Canadian Government. However, in addition to providing development assistance, Canada has much more to offer. Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health. For example, an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian scientists has already attracted international attention.

In the area of HIV, TB and Malaria, Canadian researchers are making valuable contributions. Canada has led the way in identification of anti-retroviral drug targets, development and promotion of the Treatment as Prevention strategy, development and evaluation of new diagnostics, treatment of HIV and hepatitis co-infections, and leadership roles in prestigious societies to influence policy and advocacy.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries.

Canada has a rich history of research in tuberculosis, a disease that still affects our Aboriginal communities. Canadian researchers have identified the genetic basis of susceptibility to TB, used innovative DNA fingerprinting methods to track the epidemic, evaluated novel tests for TB, conducted clinical trials to develop shorter drug therapies, and contributed to international policies. Canadian researchers have identified promising malaria drug targets, documented malaria strain variations, and developed a global molecular surveillance system for drug-resistant malaria.

McGill University and its affiliated hospitals are home to several teams that focus on HIV, TB and parasitic diseases. With over 100 scientists working on infectious diseases, McGill has much to offer in global health, from fundamental science to policy, and, in particular, training of the next generation of researchers. McGill Global Health Programs coordinates the University’s global health work, and is making strategic investments and partnerships to make sure McGill’s faculty and students are actively engaged as global citizens, in solving the biggest global health challenges.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries. We are excited that Canada is showing impressive leadership in global health, and particularly thrilled that the Global Fund Replenishment Conference is being held in Montreal. We hope the Global Fund replenishment targets will be met, and Canadian researchers will be actively engaged to translate the dollars into saved lives.

Madhukar Pai is the Director of McGill Global Health Programs, and the Associate Director of McGill International Tuberculosis Centre. (@paimadhu)

David Eidelman is the Vice Principal of Health Affairs at McGill University, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. (@VPDeanEidelman)

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post. See the original article here.

McGill Summer Institute 2016 – An Infectious Series of Presentations!

groups together 1

Patrick Bidulka

And that’s a wrap! The 2nd annual Summer Institute on Infectious Diseases and Global Health has ended after two weeks of exciting discussion covering a variety of topics including TB, HIV, worms, malaria, and more worms. With the addition of two courses to the Summer Institute arsenal, things got pretty busy!

small group

TB Research Methods Small Group Session

As a member of the organizing team for the Summer Institute, I had the opportunity to observe the mechanics of what goes on front and back stage. As participants got to hear from an extensive lineup of top-quality researchers and diagnostic industry specialists, the Institute’s top-notch organizing committee worked tirelessly to ensure operations went as smoothly as possible — easier said than done. Between organising the catering, and dashing between classrooms pretending to be an AV specialist, I managed to slip into a few lectures to get a feel for what the Summer Institute is all about.

The 2016 edition of the Summer Institute offered 5 different week-long courses:

1. Global Health Diagnostics

2. TB Research Methods

3. Advanced TB Diagnostic Research

4. Molecular & Genetic Epidemiology *New*

5. Tropical & Parasitic Diseases (including Ultrasound and Microscopy tutorials) *New*

ultrasound

Clinical Ultrasound course at the Summer Institute

All the courses provided lectures in varying format, including tech pitches from industry specialists, clinical case studies, panel discussions, and small group sessions. During breaks, participants from all different courses had the chance to mingle, and discuss the hottest topics in global health research (all while drinking record amounts of coffee!)

panel

Global Health Diagnostics Course Panel Discussion

Some personal highlights from the Summer Institute:

• Having my entire abdomen, from bladder to heart, examined via ultrasound in front of the Tropical and Parasitic Disease Ultrasound class, held at the Glen Site

• Being reassured that everything in my ultrasound was normal (phew!)

• Seeing my global health-fanatic McGill professors Drs Pai and Gyorkos debating diagnostics and treatment centre stage

• Lunch!

• And finally, being introduced to so many accomplished global health professionals, and hearing the energetic debate these people brought to the conference

lunch SI

Lunch at the Summer Institute

Boasting about 400 participants from 46 different countries, the Summer Institute was a huge success. The conference fostered a welcoming environment for global health experts and novices alike, to engage in academic discussions centred around pertinent global health issues the world faces today. See the Summer Institute 2016 Dashboard for a brief overview of the conference statistics.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of such a fast-paced and information-packed two weeks! Taking part in the conference gave me valuable insight into the many different facets of global health, and allowed me to envision which stream I would like to pursue as I move towards my own post-graduate education.

Planning is already underway for 2017’s Summer Institute – stay tuned at the Summer Institute and the McGill Global Health Programs websites for more details to come!

patrick

 

About the author:

Patrick is a recent graduate from the undergraduate pharmacology program at McGill. Now working at the GHP office, Patrick is happy to be immersed in the field of global health. His interests include infectious diseases, learning languages, and ‘The Office’.

The Biography of Malaria: Sonia Shah and “The Fever” Book Review

Vaidehi Nafade

It bears no explaining that malaria is a major global health issue today. According to WHO, in 2015 there were over 200 million cases, and 400,000 deaths, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa (1). WHO has set ambitious goals for the elimination of malaria, but it is a difficult disease for many reasons – and it has always been.

"The Fever" by Sonia Shah

“The Fever” by Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah says it aptly in her novel, “The Fever: How Malaria has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years”: “Despite the fact that we’ve known about malaria since ancient times, and have the drugs, killing chemicals, and know-how to avoid it, something about this disease still short-circuits our weaponry” (2). “Fever” tells the story of malaria, from its evolution into a parasite from a photosynthesising predecessor to its unrelenting presence in today’s world and the public health problem it poses.

Despite being factually dense, “Fever” does not read like a typical nonfiction. The editorialized style of writing can seem jarring at first, especially in comparison to academic texts or articles – but Shah’s journalistic style brings the book to life, making it into a true biography of Plasmodium. The result is a genuinely enjoyable, relatively light read, despite its heavy topic, that remains accessible to the global health professional or enthusiast alike.

However, even malaria experts will likely find some new information in “Fever”, as its greatest strength is its thoroughness. In true investigative journalist style, Shah’s research for the novel is expansive. While she covers the basics of malaria, such as the different species of the parasite and its clinical features, Shah does not stop there. The novel also describes malaria’s effects on shaping the Roman Empire or colonial America (greater than you would expect), its contributions to humankind’s genetic evolution (much more than just the infamous sickle cell gene), and the pharmaceutical struggle from quinine to artemisinin. It provides a long history of public health interventions and a persisting cultural divide between Western health authorities and malaria-afflicted countries that makes public health interventions so difficult.

Ultimately, “Fever” provides a captivating and detailed story of malaria that will leave any reader with a greater appreciation of a very formidable parasite, and an intellectual concern for how public health will tackle this parasite next.

vaidehi cropped

 

Vaidehi is an U3 pharmacology student and an avid reader and writer. Her passion for global health stems from an interest in immigrant and refugee health and cross-cultural medicine.

 

References

1. “Malaria Fact Sheet,” WHO, accessed June 13, 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/

2. Sonia Shah, The Fever: How Malaria has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (New York: Picador, 2010). 9.

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