Award-winning author Sir Terry Pratchett has said society should be taking the same sort of targeted action on dementia that it applied to HIV and Aids 20 years ago.
As a new report for Alzheimer's Research UK is published, the Discworld writer – who suffers from Alzheimer's disease – said more cash for dementia studies is needed and society "still doesn't take much notice" of the condition.
The report showed there are six UK scientists looking into cancer for every one whose work centres on dementia. But the charity said the degenerative brain condition cost the UK's economy £23bn, while cancer costs it £12bn.
Alzheimer's Research UK commissioned a 2,000-strong national poll from YouGov to mark its change of name from Alzheimer's Research Trust. More people said they fear the onset of dementia than being diagnosed with cancer or even dying. Some 31% picked dementia as their biggest fear, with 27% fearing cancer most and 18% saying death was their biggest worry.
Sir Terry (pictured), who is a charity patron, said: "Alzheimer's is a large number of small tragedies usually played out behind closed doors, so in spite of the numbers living with it, the world still doesn't take much notice. When the world was shocked by HIV in the 80s we saw a crash programme of research which has helped tame it enormously. We need the same kind of aggressive action on dementia now."
Charity chief executive Rebecca Wood said: "Public concern around dementia is at an all-time high, yet dementia research is still the poor relation in both capacity and investment. Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future."
The government's care services minister, Paul Burstow, said: "Dementia is one of the biggest challenges our society faces. Research is the key to developing new treatments, transforming care and ultimately to finding a cure for this devastating disease."
Copyright © Press Association 2011
"HIV is not actually a death sentence. It is a disease that can be managed and be controlled by the individual who acquired it allowing him to live a long normal and productive life like anyone else" – Rachel, US