Cuba and the U.S. to Fight Diseases Together

ACN | Thursday, 16 June 2016 | Click here for original article

HAVANA, Cuba, Jun 15 (acn) Health authorities of Cuba and the United States signed earlier this week a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in combating diseases affecting the two neighboring countries and to exchange experiences.

The Granma newspaper reported today that the agreement signed in Washington by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Cuban Public Health Ministry opens the way to coordinate actions in a wide spectrum of issues such as global security; transmissible and non-transmissible diseases; research and development, and information technology.

According to the official website of the HHS, both countries are interested in detecting and responding to emerging infectious diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya, transmitted by mosquitoes. They also share the problems of an aging population and the need to find solutions to neurodegenerative diseases and other non-transmissible diseases, including cancer.

"Cuba has made important contributions to science and health, as evidenced by their participation in the response to Ebola in West Africa and the fact of becoming the first country to eliminate the mother to child HIV transmission," asserted in a statement U.S. Secretary of Health Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

"This new cooperation is a historic opportunity for both countries to rely on their knowledge and experience for the benefit of biomedical research and public health in general," she specified.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, the fight against the Zika virus is another point included in the memorandum of understanding signed on Monday during the visit to Washington of Cuban Public Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda.

The head of the Global Affairs Office of the HHS, Jimmy Kolker, pointed out that the United States will be able to access the large Cuban experience in dealing with tropical diseases transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

The island, Kolker said, has one of the centers cooperating with the World Health Organization in combating dengue fever, a disease similar to Zika, the global spread of which has caused alarm this year.

"There is an epidemiological value in communicating with Cuba," the official said. "Zika has made people stop to think, due to the close relationship we have due to our geographic proximity and the potential impact of climate change, on the fact that some diseases known only in tropical areas may spread to continental regions like the United States."

The agreement includes the possibility of academic exchanges and joint research projects. It will also serve as an umbrella for specific activities wished to be developed in the future.

The new step towards normalisation of relations takes place after Havana and Washington reached understandings on various issues such as environmental preservation, mail service and regular flights, among other issues that benefit both peoples.

However, the persistence of the blockade prevents U.S. citizens from benefiting from Cuban achievements in this area.

For example, Heberprot-p, to treat diabetic foot ulcers, could prevent amputation in hundreds of thousands of diabetic patients, and Nimotuzumab is a monoclonal antibody to treat advanced head and neck cancer, medicaments that are beyond the reach of U.S., citizens, due to the current policy.

Also, the blockade prevents the development of Cuban biotechnology, not only to the detriment of the quality of life of the Cuban people but also of that of many other countries that receive solidarity aid or work on a model of South-South cooperation with health professionals of the island.

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