Communicable Diseases

Communicable diseases create a great deal of human suffering, hinder development and make it more difficult for people to break out of the poverty trap. In order to combat communicable diseases, the SDC prioritises prevention, treatment, and the research and development of new drugs and diagnostic tools. Here the main focus is on malaria, neglected tropical diseases, diarrhoea, acute respiratory illnesses and lung infections.

The SDC's focus
The SDC contributes to the fight against malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases through its bilateral and multilateral partnerships.

In 2018, a child died of malaria every two minutes – in spite of major progress in this area and the fact that malaria is a preventable and treatable disease. That is why in countries plagued by malaria the SDC provides funding for mosquito nets, strengthening health systems and promoting local community initiatives. At the international level it also supports global initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, recognised research institutes and public-private partnerships – pioneers in the scientific research and development of prevention methods, treatments and innovative diagnostic tools that can be brought onto the market quickly, in particular for poorer population groups.

The Swiss Malaria Group (SMG) was established on the SDC's initiative in 2007. With the SDC's support, the group brings together research institutes, public institutions, private industry and civil society organisations based in Switzerland.

The SMG's vision is to raise awareness among decision-makers and the Swiss public with the aim of:

  • advancing Switzerland's leading role in the fight against malaria;

  • strengthening research and innovation;

  • combating malaria effectively on the ground.

Neglected tropical diseases
More than a billion people worldwide suffer from neglected tropical diseases such as dengue fever, sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis. Access to medical products for these diseases is often lacking, which affects the poorer sections of a population in particular. That is why the SDC supports public-private partnerships to research and develop new drugs and tools for prevention and diagnostics against such neglected tropical diseases. It also works together with other Swiss federal offices at the international level to advocate improving access to medical products.

The SDC supports HIV/AIDS programmes and prioritises prevention and reducing stigma and discrimination against people who are HIV-positive through its multisectoral approach. The causes and effects of HIV/AIDS go far beyond the health sector and extend to areas such as education, work, nutrition, the law and the economy. That is why Switzerland is committed to a comprehensive approach to the HIV/AIDS problem in all its facets within the framework of sexual and reproductive health and rights. SDC projects in countries with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence address the issue systematically.

Switzerland plays an active role in the global fight against HIV/AIDS by supporting international organisations such as UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Constant threat
Although more than one billion people continue to be affected by neglected tropical diseases, there is often a lack of effective and safe treatments – the low purchasing power of the people who are primarily affected by such diseases is hardly an incentive for the research-oriented pharmaceuticals industry to invest in researching and developing new drugs. That is why the SDC works with public-private partnerships in order to fill this gap.

Thanks to international efforts to combat malaria between 2000 and 2018, the number of cases went down by more than a third; the number of malaria-related deaths was even halved. This progress was made possible by massive investments and improved coordination between the global actors. However, resistance to drugs and insecticides is becoming a major problem and threatens to undermine everything that has been achieved so far – unless new, effective products can be developed.

In terms of access to medical products, there is international demand for Switzerland's major research capabilities, expertise, products and technologies on offer, which can make a key difference for the sustainable development of a country. The SDC makes all of these assets available in order to help resolve global health issues.