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Research Funding Gaps Revealed

Treatment Action Group has published two new reports on the crisis in national and international funding for scientific research on AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and viral hepatitis. TB and hepatitis are diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. They are particularly deadly coinfections for people with HIV.

Flat-Lined, authored by Lydia Guterman and edited by Mark Harrington, examines the current overall state of research investment after five years of flat funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 2004 to 2009, and focuses on HIV/AIDS and its three most common coinfections, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and tuberculosis. The report finds that overall funding for the NIH during this period has failed to keep up with inflation, resulting in a net decline in research investment for all diseases. TAG recommends that NIH funding increase by 15% per year for the next five years in order to get back on track.

TAG also published the third in its series of yearly reports evaluating worldwide funding trends for tuberculosis research and development. A Critical Analysis of Funding Trends: 2005–2007, authored by Neha Agarwal, finds that while TB research has increased modestly year-to-year, funding is expected to fall far short of the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) if tuberculosis is to be brought under control during the next decade.

Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG, said, “Research funding for TB and hepatitis has fallen far short of the need, and the results are tragic. Despite the millions of lives at risk, worldwide support for TB research is well below the level of commitment recommended by the WHO. And support for hepatitis research barely registers at the NIH here in the United States.”

The U.S. government’s NIH is the world’s preeminent medical research body, and has historically been a powerhouse in generating new discoveries to treat cancer, heart disease, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

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