Health & Infectious Diseases

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Health & Infectious Diseases

Billions of people worldwide are at risk for contracting life-threatening endemic diseases, which thrive in the world’s poorest regions. The Life You Can Save’s recommended nonprofits do work that prevents, contains and treats such diseases in some of the world’s most impoverished areas.


An HIV diagnosis is no longer the death knell it was before antiretroviral treatment (ART). In 2015, 17 million people globally received ART—up from just 0.8 million in 2003. New infections fell 35 percent between 2000-2015, from 3.5 to 1.1 million. Despite these advances, 36.7 million people still live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, with risk of contraction significantly higher in endemic regions. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected area, where 25.6 million people live with HIV and two-thirds of new global infections arise. Expanding ART and prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.


In the last 15 years, 6.2 million malaria-related deaths have been averted, the majority in children under five living in sub-Saharan Africa. During the same time period, the global malaria incidence rate fell by 37 percent and the mortality rate by 58 percent. However, malaria continues to pose significant health risks, especially for vulnerable groups such as young children and pregnant women. 2015 saw 214 million new cases—472,000 of them fatal. In 97 countries, the disease is still endemic and 3.3 billion people continue to be at risk, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 80 percent of related deaths worldwide. We must continue progress in protecting those in poor, high-risk areas from this crippling disease.

Schistosomiasis (Parasitic Worms)

Schistosomiasis, a waterborne disease of poverty,  leads to disabling ill-health for millions globally—particularly children. An estimated 66.5 million were treated for schistosomiasis in 2015, while a boggling 218 million people required preventative treatment, with nearly 83 percent of treatments in sub-Saharan Africa. Simple and inexpensive preventative treatment can be a game-changer in averting health and economic ill-effects of this insidious disease that we in developed countries have rarely heard of.

Preventable Blindness

Around the world, 285 million people are visually impaired, with over 90 percent in impoverished regions; 39 million of those are blind. Cataracts (a clouding of the eye) and Trachoma (a bacterial eye infection) are the main causes of these highly debilitating losses of vision for people living in poverty, leading to sacrifice of education, employment, and often survival. Yet 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured–work in which two of our recommended nonprofits are global pioneers.

Obstetric Fistula

Among the many health problems endured by those in developing countries that are virtually unknown in affluent parts of the world is obstetric fistula. This devastating injury caused by difficult childbirth renders a woman incontinent and frequently results in her ostracization from family and community. Surgery is literally and figuratively transformative , with cost a fraction of that of medical care in industrialized countries.

Health Products, Awareness and Services

In less developed countries, disease and death are often the result of inability to afford health services or living too far away from them, as well as simply being unaware of basic safe health practices. Several of our recommended organizations cost-effectively deliver a range of life-saving information, products and services right to the doorsteps of the remote poor.