Ministry of Health and partners disclose recommendations to overcome barriers to access to diagnosis and treatment for Chagas Disease in Colombia

[Bogotá, Colombia – April 23, 2015]
At an international seminar that gathered international and Colombian experts in Bogotá, capital, representatives of the General System of Social Security in Health, knowledge management, civil society and international cooperation agreed upon necessary measures to rebuild and reinforce proposals to guarantee the right to health on affected areas, including a model project for the treatment of Chagas disease, both at regional and national levels.
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A proposal of a model project that can be feasible at national level, but also sustainable and replicable in other countries of the region, was one of the outcomes of the seminar “Towards the Elimination of Barriers to Diagnosis and Treatment Access of Chagas disease in Colombia” that took place in Bogotá, capital of Colombia. The meeting was also the platform for the production of a document that gathers recommendations, such as a roadmap for the country with special emphasis primary health level attention to patients – including diagnosis and treatment – as well as health promotion and prevention.

The roadmap also includes the request of new guidelines for treatment as part of a new medical protocol for Chagas disease, the acceleration of the regulatory process for the registration of the medicine in the country, as well as a Plan for Information, Education and Communication.

“The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia will support all initiatives and to act as a leader  of  the improvement of access to diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease in the Latin American region”, said Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, Minister of Health and Social Protection. “We know that Chagas is related to housing conditions and poverty, for which it requires coordinated actions within different sectors to reduce the risk of infection. This disease brings up equity challenges that are within the frame of the National Development Plan”, he added.

Currently, it is estimated that in Colombia there are 4.800.000 people under risk of infection and 437.000 estimated total cases. Nevertheless, in seven years there have been screened 53.700 people not including those identified in blood banks, which diagnostic approximately 2.000 new cases a year, as per data of 2010 of the World Health Organization. From this total, less than 1.000 have received medicine treatment, according to the National Health Institute of Colombia.

Chagas disease has been defined as one of the priorities of the Ten Year Plan for Public Health in Colombia, with goals such as the reduction of deaths and vector control.

The seminar was organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, The National Health Institute and the Red Chagas of Colombia, as well as the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) on April 22 and 23 in Bogota. Fifty people directly or indirectly involved with Chagas disease attended the seminar, both from the governmental and non-governmental sectors, as well as people affected by the disease.

About Chagas Disease
Chagas disease or American Tripanosomiasis is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and is named after its discoverer, the Brazilian Doctor Carlos Chagas.

There are four main forms of transmission: by the bite of the vector insect (kissing bug or “chinche” or “pito” in Spanish) infected with the parasite; by contaminated blood transfusion or organ transplant; by transmission mother-son during pregnancy, if the woman is infected; or by oral infection.

Some of the symptoms are fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomits, swollen glands and welling of one eye. It can also present symptoms of heart problems.

Presently there are two medicines for the treatment of Chagas: benznidazole and nifurtimox. For children under one year old, the treatment achieves full recovery. Both in children as well as in youths, the treatment has less side effects than in adults. In adults the treatment can avoid the progression of the disease and heart complications.