Poll: Americans Not So Serious About Malaria

Fewer Americans say malaria is a very serious problem compared to AIDS in Africa. Poor nutrition in Africa also topped American concerns over malaria.

A recent Gallup Poll reported that roughly 6 in 10 Americans think of malaria as a very serious problem in Africa right now, which was much lower than the 96 percent of respondents who say HIV or AIDS is a very serious problem there.

But unlike many other diseases, malaria is a preventable and treatable disease. Thus, a network of non-governmental organizations, corporations and faith-based groups launched the "Malaria No More" campaign at a White House summit last week.

The $1.2 billion, five-year President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) follows President George Bush's $15 billion, five-year plan for AIDS relief – an emergency plan applauded by many senators and faith-based groups.

PMI involves bed nets to keep mosquitoes from biting people especially during the night, education, spraying insecticides on the walls of people's houses, and treating victims with anti-malarial drugs.

Although malaria is estimated to kill over one million people each year, most of whom are African children, most Americans rank malaria among the least serious diseases in the world. Some attribute American opinion to the wipe out of malaria in the United States more than 50 years ago.

Researchers, however, are saying that malaria has to be taken more seriously. University of Washington researchers found that malaria is fueling the spread of AIDS by boosting the HIV in people's bodies.

"We really need to be much more serious about what we do about malaria at the same time we're serious about what we do about HIV," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, the government's leading infectious disease specialist, according to the Associated Press.

Behind malaria, Americans ranked tuberculosis and cancer as very serious problems in Africa, respectively. The Gallup Poll was based on interviews with 505 American adults, conducted from Dec. 8 to Dec. 10.