Issue No. 11 [2011]
PAHO, Catalyst for Health in the Americas. Health: Our Most Basic Asset.
Jul 28, 2011
Tackling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) with Common Tools but Innovative Applications of Knowledge is a Moral Imperative
PAHO/ISID-NTD Neglected Tropical Diseases Meeting

[ Boston, Massachusetts. 8 Jul 2011. ]

Enfrentar y eliminar las Enfermedades Tropicales Desatendidas (NTD) con herramientas comunes pero aplicaciones innovadoras de conocimiento es un imperativo moral

PAHO Director remarks during the opening ceremony of the "2011 International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)”, in Boston, Massachusetts, where leading non tropical disease experts are discussing the approach to neglected tropical diseases. It's the first ever NTDs meeting of the International Society of Infectious Diseases.


" NTDs debilitate and dramatically reduce the quality of life for more than one billion people living in developing countries around the world. As a result, these diseases cause great suffering and obstruct socioeconomic development in these countries. Eliminating these diseases will require effective action and strong sustained global commitment. Effective action can only come from a connected community of individuals in different sectors and from many countries working closely together. The combined voice of this community is essential to sustain global commitment over time. An open international meeting dedicated to eliminating NTDs will serve to nucleate this community and provide a podium from which its voice can be heard."

PAHO Director's Main Messages:

When we have the tools in hand, the local and regional cases of success to guide us, and we know we can and have mustered the political will in some countries, it becomes a Moral Imperative that we eliminate these diseases!

"Today, as we gather here more than 1 billion persons on this planet are afflicted by Neglected Tropical Diseases. This involves women, children, the laborer, fisher and farmer from the rural areas, the shanty-town dweller, the elderly, the displaced, the imprisoned, the indigenous people and those abandoned or subject to stigma and discrimination..."

"Today at the beginning of the 21st Century, every one of these afflicted persons can and should have hope, they can live free of the burden of the intestinal worms, the risk of blindness from trachoma and onchocerciasis, the disabilities brought by leprosy and Buruli ulcer, free of human African trypanosomiasis and leishmaniasis, and the premature death brought by schistosomiasis and Chagas disease..."

WHO’s “Global Plan to Combat the Neglected Tropical Diseases 2008-2015” has oriented us very well on what to do, setting the broad lines of the major strategy. The publication last year of the first WHO Report on the NTDs titled “Working to Overcome the Global Impact of NTDs” has revealed the remarkable progress made by so many countries and their partners in the long fight to defeat these diseases of poverty.

The 8 Symposia we will hear and participate in over the next two-and-a-half days will take a look at many interesting issues:

a) What it will take to eliminate several NTDs such as schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis;

b) The new and the forthcoming Tools (vaccines, diagnostics and drugs) to combat the NTDs;

c) The challenge of setting Priorities for their prevention and treatment in the context of developing economies and the need to work with other sectors like water and sanitation, education and housing.

Additionally, we will consider:

d) The Reach of the NTDs, how they impact the human life-course, the impact of co-infections in those who also suffer from HIV or malaria, and how some NTDs like dengue and Chagas disease have spread that reach through human activity or migration; and

e) The challenges posed by the most rapidly expanding NTD: dengue fever.

Finally, we will look carefully at:

f) How different geographic Regions, continents, are tackling the NTDs often with common tools but innovative applications of knowledge; and

g) The commitment of the pharmaceutical industry and the international Non-governmental development programs and their collaboration and with Ministries of Health and Education and other international partners is finally defeating a number of these neglected diseases across several continents.

Regional Experiences in the Americas

Schistosomiasis, river blindness, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis came to the Americas with the trans-Atlantic slave trade 500 years ago, compounding one cruelty with another, and adding up to the existing misery of endemic Chagas disease and other intestinal worms! Our peoples of African descent and our native Amerindian communities were and still are bearing a heavy, disproportionate, burden of some of these diseases, along with the poor descendants of the European colonists who were also exposed to these infections. Though we in Latin America and the Caribbean have the unfortunate record of having the greatest range of economic disparity (the super-rich and the very poor) among the regions of the world, we are trying hard to tackle poverty at the community level and address the social determinants that feed and maintain it… and which indeed feed and maintain the NTDs.

Based upon research, reflection, experience and much discussion, PAHO Ministers of Health committed in a 2009 Directing Council Resolution (equivalent to WHO Regional Committees) to move from sometimes spasmodic and isolated NTD control efforts to a goal of elimination of 10 neglected infectious and tropical diseases in the 33 countries of the LAC Region and to an intensified control of two others [STH and schistosomiasis] –all this by the year 2015. This is indeed a very ambitious, but extremely needed and timely commitment, building on well documented achievements of the past decade in this Region, such as:

  • The elimination of domestic vector borne transmission of Chagas disease in 5 countries and the elimination of blood borne transmission in most countries;
  • The elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis in 3 of 7 countries, and rapidly approaching elimination of transmission in the remaining 4;
  • The interruption of Onchocerciasis transmission in 8 of 13 foci, and suppression in 2 other foci;
  • The elimination of Leprosy as a public health problem at the national level (as defined by WHO) in 24 of the 25 endemic countries in the Region.

PAHO and the Pan-American Ministers of Health are ready to join the people in the Americas, and Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific – in confronting the challenge and mobilizing the resources required to defeat these avoidable diseases of poverty and deprivation over the course of the next few years.

World Hepatitis Day

Día Mundial de la lucha contra la hepatitis

Washington, DC. 28 July 2011.

- PAHO/WHO Warns of Growing Health Toll of Hepatitis

Action needed to improve prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and treatment

As many as 2 billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B—one of five types of hepatitis virus—and more than 350 million suffer a chronic form of the disease. Yet public awareness is low, and much more public health action is needed to prevent and control viral hepatitis, said experts today at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in observance of World Hepatitis Day.

The hepatitis group of viruses—types A, B, C, D and E—cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver, and are a major public health problem globally. An estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people die annually as a result of hepatitis B virus infection. Some 130–170 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus, and some 35,000 people die from related liver diseases each year. An estimated 57 percent of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78 percent of cases of primary liver cancer result from infection with hepatitis B or C virus.

In the Americas, more than 380,000 potential blood donors were deferred from donating due to the presence of risks for hepatitis B, C or HIV in 2009. Yet despite this initial screening, more than 75,000 blood donor donations were found to be infected with hepatitis B or C viruses. According to available data, between 7 million and 9 million people may be infected with hepatitis C in Latin America alone.

The World Health Assembly in 2010 designated World Hepatitis Day as an official WHO health day to call attention to the growing threat of this disease and called on countries to improve awareness, surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis.

“Today, on World Hepatitis Day, we join WHO and the World Hepatitis Alliance in calling attention to the enormous toll of viral hepatitis,” said Dr Roses, PAHO’s Director. “We hope that together we can stir a sense of urgency and commitment across all levels of society, from the health system to the communities they serve.”

In observing World Hepatitis Day, PAHO and WHO are calling on countries to: develop, enhance or improve their surveillance systems for viral hepatitis; strengthen laboratory capacity; support public policies and integrated interventions; implement strategies and tools to strengthen their health care systems; guarantee early diagnosis and treatment, protection and immunization for healthcare workers; implement universal hepatitis B immunization for newborns and children; and promote safe blood donation and injection safety.

A working group, launched by PAHO/WHO today, will try to integrate the existing efforts of all entities that have been collaborating with PAHO/WHO member countries to prevent and control viral hepatitis.

For more information visit:

- World Hepatitis Day 2011 - PAHO

- Día Mundial contra la Hepatitis 2011 - OPS

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