With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sunsetting next year and the post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shaping up, countries and development partners are busy assessing progress and proposing plans to overcome key impediments.

Two papers published this week offer important contributions to analyses of MDG Six, “Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases.” The latter refers to a number of diseases, including neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — a chief focus of the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Product Development Partnership and Global Network program — and tuberculosis. Sabin President Dr. Peter Hotez is a co-author on both publications.

The first paper*, published in The Lancet, shares telling data — much of it promising — on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2013. The authors, led by Dr. Christopher Murray, professor and director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found:

“Our estimates of the number of people living with HIV are 18.7% smaller than UNAIDS’s estimates in 2012. The number of people living with malaria is larger than estimated by WHO. The number of people living with HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria have all decreased since 2000. At the global level, upward trends for malaria and HIV deaths have been reversed, and declines in tuberculosis deaths have accelerated. 101 countries (74 of which are developing) still have increasing HIV incidence. Substantial progress since the Millennium Declaration is an encouraging sign of the effect of global action.”

The second paper**, printed in PLOS NTDs, evaluates the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) metric for NTDs used in the GBD 2010. The authors, led by Dr. Hotez, recognize some of the DALYs’ limitations, including that they do not depict the economic impact of NTDs on school attendance, human development, agriculture and productivity; illustrate the benefits of treatment, surveillance and prevention measures; and capture the role of social stigma on individuals and communities. These issue can be addressed, however. According to the authors:

“Additional research is needed for almost all of the NTDs, and it is expected that as new information becomes available it can be incorporate into new DALY estimates. … The GBD 2010 will be updated regularly … in so doing, a sincere hope is that the GBD 2010 can become a living and breathing document with the flexibility to adapt and change and can ultimately resolve discrepancies and controversies on the true disease burden resulting from NTDs and diseases, injuries, and risk factors.”

Dr. Hotez ties these two papers together and urges great action on MDG Six in a new post on PLOS Speaking of Medicine Blog.

As we head into the fall, the MDGs, SDGS and post-2015 development agenda will continue to get more attention, prompting critical discussions on how to accelerate progress that will benefit more than one billion of the world’s poorest people.

At the same time, we hope that NTDs will also get a greater spotlight. Based on positive updates — the final report from the UN High-Level panel and the zero draft from the UN’s Open Working Group on SDGs explicitly mentioning NTDs alongside the “big three” diseases, and the World Health Assembly’s May 2014 resolution calling for additional attention to NTDs in the post-2015 agenda — we’re optimistic.

* “Global, regional, and national incidence and mortality for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria during 1990—2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013,” The Lancet.

** “The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010: Interpretation and Implications for the Neglected Tropical Diseases,” PLOS NTDs.