World health report

Executive summary

Infectious diseases transmitted from person to person

WHO has been active with partners, including UNICEF, in controlling diphtheria epidemics in the Russian Federation, some newly independent States and Mongolia. National immunization days were organized in late 1995, targeting the vulnerable population aged between 16 and 40.

In view of the fact that in some countries tuberculosis control programmes are being overwhelmed by the growing prevalence of HIV infection, WHO is mobilizing national experts to develop a new research strategy aimed at preventing the collapse of those programmes. The Organization is promoting the "directly observed treatment, short-course" (DOTS) strategy as the key to halting the current epidemic. In 1995 WHO issued training materials and a handbook on the subject of tuberculosis and supported workshops in 15 countries.

Steady progress is being made towards the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem before the end of the century, as a result of the multidrug therapy recommended by WHO since 1981, which is relatively cheap, is acceptable to patients and effects a complete cure.

In February 1995 WHO announced the composition of the influenza vaccine for the 1995-1996 season, replacing two of the three components that had been included in the vaccine for the previous season.

WHO studies were carried out on various aspects of HIV/AIDS, such as the protective effect of the female condom; the efficacy of a long-acting vaginal microbicide; preparation of field-testing sites for vaccines; preventing mother-to-child transmission; and a number of sociological investigations. Training in condom promotion continued in most regions. WHO was involved in the setting up of a Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which became operational on 1 January 1996.