Not that long ago many chronic diseases were considered to be problems confined to prosperous countries. But the developing world is fast catching up—especially when it comes to diabetes.

Populous India and China have the most diabetic citizens in the world, with 40.9 million and 39.8 million respectively, according to data from International Diabetes Foundation. Other developing countries, including Egypt and Suriname, have a higher prevalence of diabetes among adults than the U.S.

In today’s Boston Globe, reporter Derrick Jackson writes from Uganda about the rise of diabetes there and the struggle for funds to fight the disease.

Bitekyerezo Medaro, a doctor who runs a diabetes clinic in Mbarara, Uganda, says the number of diagnosed diabetes cases is about the same as HIV (5 to 6 percent of the population).  But the disparity in treatment is stark. Diabetes medicines are expensive; HIV treatments are largely free thanks to aid programs. “One diabetic patient told me she wished she had HIV because HIV treatment is free and she has to pay for insulin," Medaro says.

In 2008, the U.S. poured $6 billion into AIDS relief through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), and more than 2.1 million people were treated.  Those results leave Medaro split, as he tells the Globe, “When I see the treatment for HIV, I become inspired as to what we can do. When I see what we have for diabetes, I feel defeated.” 

Image courtesy of MelB via Flickr

Correction: The original version of this post misstated the number of people in India and China with diabetes.