2022 Latin America highlights
My son was tested for Chagas disease and it took three months to receive the result, which was positive. He had to go to Santiago del Estero to receive treatment and it is difficult to travel from our village to the treatment centre.
Rita Alejandra, also a Chagas patient, is pictured at home with her son and partner in Vaca Muerta, Argentina.
The costly trip to the closest city to receive treatment takes one and a half hours.
Chagas disease affects millions of people in Latin America. But while the tools exist to save lives, the disease often goes undiagnosed, and those infected may not exhibit symptoms for years. A lack of awareness and knowledge of Chagas among healthcare professionals and the public alike leads to life-threatening delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Alongside our efforts to discover and develop improved treatments for Chagas, DNDi teams in Latin America are working to help boost access to testing and treatment in communities most affected by the disease. Together with our partners, we provided comprehensive training on Chagas diagnosis and clinical management to more than 1,000 health professionals in 2022 and donated essential laboratory equipment to bolster diagnostic and treatment monitoring services.
In Colombia, DNDi supported the introduction of a new diagnostic and treatment centre for Chagas in the municipality of Cubará. In Guatemala, our teams worked with the Ministry of Health to establish a diagnostic laboratory in Jalapa, where we donated equipment for processing diagnostic tests and introduced DNDi’s iChagas mobile app as a strategy to ensure continuing education following a programme of theoretical and hands-on training for health professionals at the facility. Improving care for pregnant women and infants is a major focus of our teams in Latin America, including work to improve routine Chagas screening at the primary healthcare level and prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease. These efforts contribute to the Pan American Health Organization’s EMTCT Plus strategy, which aims to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B, and Chagas disease.
Committed to eliminating Chagas: the Bogotá Manifesto
On 23 September 2022, the Chagas Disease Clinical Research Platform and the Global Chagas Coalition released the Bogotá Manifesto – setting out priorities for action and calling for intensified efforts to eliminate Chagas as a public health problem.
A joint effort of the scientific community, health programme managers, specialists, and people affected by the disease, the manifesto calls for six commitments from governments and organizations working against Chagas:
1. Improve access to diagnosis, treatment, and comprehensive care for people affected by Chagas;
2. Encourage investment in research and development for simpler, safer diagnostic and therapeutic tools;
3. Improve disease surveillance and control;
4. Strengthen access to training and information resources for healthcare workers and people living with Chagas;
5. Promote coordination among professionals, providing comprehensive care and guaranteeing the participation of people living with Chagas in strategies adapted to their needs; and
6. Continue to support activities related to World Chagas Day to highlight global efforts to reduce the impact of Chagas and promote actions to improve access to comprehensive care.
Jorge is a fruit farmer living with CL near Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia. For several months, Jorge was misdiagnosed but eventually started receiving the correct treatment. He struggles to access medical care, living outside a major urban area, and has to travel long distances to reach his treatment centre.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis: Advocating for simpler diagnostic tools
When Jorge Hernández, a fruit farmer in rural Antioquia, Colombia, developed a sore on his arm that would not heal, he became concerned. It took seven months and several lengthy journeys to doctors in the city for him to be correctly diagnosed with cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) and receive treatment. Unfortunately, cases like Jorge’s are not uncommon – in part because simple diagnostic tests for CL do not exist.
In August 2022, during the WorldLeish7 conference in Colombia, the redeLEISH Network, a platform coordinated by DNDi that brings together specialists in CL from across Latin America, launched a manifesto calling for investment in R&D for simpler and more effective diagnostic tools for CL. The manifesto also urges the scientific community, governments, and funding agencies to coordinate their efforts and define a strategic agenda to enable the development and implementation of rapid tests and access to treatment for people affected by CL.
Garnering hundreds of online signatures following its release at tropical medicine conferences in Brazil and Colombia in 2022, the manifesto has gained significant traction. To amplify its impact, a redeLEISH working group is now developing strategies to increase commitment to the manifesto, including through champions in Latin American countries, and to convert support for the manifesto into funding for R&D and policy advocacy for CL diagnostics.
Photo credits: Ana Ferreira-DNDi; Sydelle Willow Smith-DNDi
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