Dutch health minister Hugo De Jonge likened the growth of neurological conditions linked to dementia the 1980s epidemic of HIV and Aids on Friday.

During the World Dementia Council Summit in Tokyo, Japan, De Jonge said that dementia is spreading like wildfire, claiming millions of lives, expressing concern that science has yet to identify the causes of the disease.

“This time, it is not a disease that attacks our immune systems, but our brain, our memory, our personality, ourselves,” De Jonge said, calling the financial commitment of research in dementia “next to nothing.” State investment in dementia research doubled over the last year in the Netherlands but it is just €16 million.

The population of people living with such a condition worldwide is approximately 50 million people, equal to the population of Spain, Ukraine, or Poland. This number is expected to triple by 2050. There is no medical cure for the condition and research often focuses on how people with dementia can remain in society rather than care homes.

The World Dementia Council met in Japan on October 18, bringing together policymakers, leading researchers, key industry participants, the private sector and civil society. The Japanese government have put the challenge of the ageing society at the centre of their G20 programme.