Rupert Everett supports new international health organisation GAFFI

Rupert Everett, the acclaimed British actor, is a staunch supporter of GAFFI and wants to help them in their fight to raise awareness of a massive challenge that stretches right across the world.

Fungal infections are ignored by most international health agencies and policy makers but GAFFI, Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections aims to change all this. This is a new international health organisation that aims to highlight the plight of the 300m people who suffer from fungal infections across the globe and try to reverse this unnecessary suffering and death.

Fungal infections kill at least 1,350,000 patients with or following AIDS, cancer, TB and asthma as well as causing untold misery and blindness to tens of millions more worldwide. Yet its symptoms are mostly hidden and occur as a consequence of other health problems, and the tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available for almost 50 years.

Nov 6th 2013 in the House of Commons, in London* – with a simultaneous event in New York – GAFFI (www.gaffi.org) will be officially launched by Hollywood star Rupert Everett and founding President, Professor David Denning of the University of Manchester, who will spell out the global issues and potential for great health improvements with local access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines and better medical training.

For example, after TB about 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over several years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work.

Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally because the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment. Skin fungal infections affect a billion people worldwide. Severe asthma with fungal allergy contributes to half of the 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, yet it is treatable with antifungal drugs.

Professor Denning explains: “This is a global plague on an unappreciated scale. While the World Health Organisation has just developed clinical guidelines for doctors for fungal meningitis in AIDS, other critical fungal infections are ignored. The lack of basic fungal diagnostic capability and unavailable treatments in many countries results in millions of avoidable deaths and illness. GAFFI is here to change this dismal situation.”

Rupert Everett has pledged to help GAFFI raise awareness among health professionals and the public. He says: “I understand from the experts that fungal diseases tend to be complicated requiring specialised diagnostic skills. Only when it is too late is the diagnosis possible on clinical grounds, but even then many conditions overlap. The tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available in some countries for 40-50 years, yet not where they are now most needed.”

But experts believe the tide could be turning: The launch of GAFFI comes hard on the heels of a statement from the World Medical Association’s annual meeting in Brazil last month urging national governments to ensure that diagnostic tests and fungal therapies are available for their populations.

Two people who know how difficult it can be living with fungal infection are Gail Iddon (52) from Caerphilly, in South Wales and Woodrow Maitland-Brown (53) from South London. For ten years Gail has been a patient of Professor Denning after surviving a catalogue of illness including leukaemia and a bone marrow transplant. The mum of two explains: “I know I am lucky to be alive. Professor Denning saved my life and continues to look after me. I don’t know how I would have coped without his care and compassion.”

Two years ago Woodrow developed painful chest problems. It took nine months for TB to be finally diagnosed after he was rushed to hospital where doctors drained almost three litres of blood and water from his left lung. The condition Aspergillosis, from a common airborne fungus, was detected and he’s been visiting Professor Denning’s clinic in Manchester every three months for treatment. He says: “I have had to learn to live with my condition and it hasn’t been easy.”

GAFFI has a stellar international Board and Advisor group from the UK, USA, Brazil, India, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Japan to guide the foundation’s work as it begins its many tasks to rescue patients.