Medical Students Ask Congress to Increase Funding to Fight Infectious Diseases

RESTON, Va. -- In commemoration of World Tuberculosis Day yesterday, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation's largest, independent medical student organization, joined Families USA to call on Congress to increase funding to combat infectious diseases. According to the AMSA, the Presidents current FY 2009 budget shortchanges both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two major agencies conducting global health research that affects millions worldwide.

Tuberculosis remains one of the top causes of morbidity and mortality around the world. In 2007, close to 14 million people had an active TB infection. TB claims 5,000 lives daily. Despite the impact of TB on the health of people globally, there have been no new diagnostic methods developed for TB in over a century. Additionally, we have seen no new anti-TB medications released in more than thirty years. Without new, effective treatments, the rates of multi-drug resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB will continue to rise. In a report released last month, the World Health Organization stated that MDR-TB has recently been recorded at the highest rates ever, with nearly 500,000 cases of MDR-TB per year globally.

Global health equity is one of AMSAs strategic priorities, and AMSA has a long tradition of lobbying legislators to ensure that the United States takes a lead in both research and treatment efforts of infectious diseases worldwide. Families USA and AMSA say they are disappointed that the Presidents FY 2009 budget does not even keep up with the cost of inflation for the NIH, and slashes funding for the CDC by $475 million.

Based on WHO and UNAIDS estimates for tropical diseases, Families USA and AMSA call for a 6.7 percent increase for the NIH over 2008 funding, with an additional $83.1 million for the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and an additional $2.4 million for the Fogarty International Center. The CDCs global health programs need a $35.5 million funding increase in 2009.

A commitment to research is the only way to make progress towards new diagnostic tests, therapeutics, and vaccines, states Tanyaporn Wansom, AMSA global health chair. Without adequate funding, the NIH and CDC will not be able to continue to support global health programming that affects the health and security of people worldwide.

Source: American Medical Student Association