The response of most governments and international aid agencies to high blood pressure (hypertension) is little better than the reaction to HIV/AIDS 20 years ago - too little too late.

"Valuable lessons for hypertension could be taken from HIV/AIDS policies. Yet there is little indication that these are being taken on board. Can we not wake up earlier this time before millions have died?" said an alarming paper jointly written by professors Peter Lloyd-Sherlock of University of East Anglia's school of international development and Shah Ebrahim and Heiner Grosskurth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

HIV is a major global health priority and is recognised as a serious threat to public health and development in many poorer countries.

Hypertension is seen as a disease of the West, of prosperity and, therefore, of little relevance to poorer countries."This is despite the growing body of evidence that prevalences in poorer countries are quickly catching up," said Lloyd-Sherlock.

While hypertension is not an infectious disease, the risky behaviours associated with it are spreading fast and seem to be as effectively transmitted as infectious agents, the researchers cautioned.HIV was faced with political denial and public misunderstanding in the early years of the pandemic, especially in some poorer countries. There is a similar pattern of denial with hypertension.

This denial is based on the misguided view that hypertension does not affect poorer social groups."Yet there is substantial evidence that hypertension is highly prevalent among poorer groups and that they are less likely to have access to effective treatment. As with HIV, hypertension can be both a cause and a consequence of poverty," explained the authors.

"Rather than framing policy as a choice between competing priorities, the key challenge is to roll out services and interventions which address both," added Ebrahim in the paper that appeared in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

It is estimated that the number of deaths attributable to hypertension globally over the next 20 years may substantially exceed the number resulting from HIV/AIDS.

Yet the researchers say there is 'denial' and misunderstanding about the impact of hypertension, despite the two conditions having a number of things in common.Both diseases can also be treated and managed as chronic conditions through a combination of drug treatment and lifestyle changes.


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