Geneva, 13 April 2023 – Ahead of World Chagas Day, 14 April, Unitaid reiterates its commitment to make Chagas a disease of the past. Deemed a “silent disease” because it can take decades for symptoms to appear, this illness affects up to 7 million people worldwide and can cause cardiac, neurological, and digestive problems if left untreated.
In Latin America, where it is endemic to 21 countries, Chagas disease is the leading cause of death from a parasite, ahead of malaria. Chagas disease, which had originally been observed in rural areas, has now also moved to urban settings in 44 countries spanning every continent, apart from Antarctica. Up to 75 million people live in areas of exposure, putting them at risk of infection. Detection rates are often very low in many countries. Only up to 10% of people living with the disease receive a diagnosis and 1% receive effective treatment.
In collaboration with regional and global health partners, Unitaid is working to prevent mother-to-child transmission and to improve access to affordable tests and treatments. Through projects like CUIDA Chagas and its partnership with the Pan American Health Organization, Unitaid seeks to identify better, shorter ways to test and treat Chagas disease, and advance the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of this neglected disease.
The CUIDA Chagas project is an innovative international initiative focusing on testing, treating, and caring for people affected by Chagas disease in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay. Through an approach that combines implementation and innovation, community engagement and market interventions, CUIDA Chagas seeks to contribute to the elimination of vertical transmission of the disease.
To address Chagas disease, it is essential that it be integrated into primary health care and that essential services reach people who need them. Cross-sectoral approaches are also needed, including universal health coverage, vector control, access to testing and treatment.
Unitaid calls upon the global health community and governments to make Chagas disease a priority and support ongoing efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and improve access to tests and treatments. Together, by integrating it into primary health care and systematically screening mothers and babies, we can make Chagas a disease of the past.
- Watch our World Chagas Day video
Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply, and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries. Its work includes funding initiatives to address major diseases such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as HIV co-infections and co-morbidities including advanced HIV disease, cervical cancer, and hepatitis C, and cross-cutting areas, such as fever management. Unitaid is now applying its expertise to address challenges in advancing new therapies and diagnostics for the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a key member of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, co-leading with Wellcome the Therapeutics Pillar and participating in the Diagnostics Pillar. Unitaid is hosted by the World Health Organization.
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