By Dr Sergio Sosa-Estani, DNDi Latin America Director
Since the 1990s, we have seen progress in the control of Chagas disease transmission in Latin America. Despite this progress, we still face great challenges to bring diagnosis and treatment to populations affected by this deadly and very neglected disease: less than 10% of the 75 million people at risk of contracting Chagas are tested in the Americas, and only 1% have access to treatment each year, leaving millions behind.
On this World Chagas Day, we at DNDi are underscoring the calls to action by the scientific community and patients’ associations through the Santa Cruz Letter issued in 2018, and the Bogotá Manifesto issued in 2022. Among the priority recommendations we highlight: improving access to diagnostics and treatments; increasing investment in research and development to obtain new diagnostic tools and simpler, safer treatments; improving disease surveillance and control as well as amplifying compulsory notification; and boosting support for the outreach and participation of affected people and their associations.
To achieve these priorities, it is imperative to bring Chagas care closer to where people live. Initiatives promoted by the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization with control programmes in endemic countries have shown that we must concentrate at the primary health care level. It is in primary health care that it is feasible to provide care to eight out of ten Chagas patients, in their own communities, with a timely and effective ’test and treat’ approach.
In our twenty years working to improve research and access to treatment for Chagas, DNDi has tirelessly advocated for the rights of patients to be treated where they are, lessening the burden on individuals, their families, their communities, and the health system as a whole. A patient-centered approach at the primary health care level increases access and adherence to treatment. It would bring hope for people with a disease that, despite a few achievements, remains a silent killer in Latin America.
Photo credit: Ana Ferreira-DNDi