During the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared April 14 as World Chagas Disease Day. The inclusion of this day in the global health agenda will increase the visibility of the disease, which is included in WHO’s list of neglected tropical diseases.
On April 14, 1909, the Brazilian doctor Carlos Chagas confirmed the first case of the disease in a child, called Berenice Soares. For many years, the Chagas community commemorated that date as an unofficial day dedicated to people affected by the disease. Recently, the International Federation of Associations of People Affected by Chagas Disease (FINDECHAGAS), supported by the Chagas Coalition - of which ISGlobal forms part -, petitioned the WHO to officially declare April 14 as World Chagas Day. An online petition in support of this declaration was launched last April.
"The official recognition of this day in the global calendar of World Days is an important step to raise the visibility of this global health problem," said Joaquim Gascon, director of the Chagas Initiative at ISGlobal. "It is necessary to call the attention of governments and health decision makers and encourage them to take actions to overcome barriers regarding access to diagnosis and treatment for affected people."
“People and families affected by Chagas disease have suffered from the silence and invisibility that have surrounded this disease for over a century,” said Elvira Hernández, from the Mexican Association of People Affected by Chagas disease, on behalf of the current board of FINDECHAGAS. “The approval of a World Chagas Disease Day will help break this silence, but there is still a long way to go. Now, more than ever, we need the support of all the organisations and countries that have helped us to achieve this.”
Chagas disease, which is endemic in 21 countries in Latin America but present in many others, has become a global health problem affecting more than six million people worldwide. It is estimated that 65 million people are at risk of Chagas disease. Furthermore, the majority of patients have no access to diagnosis and comprehensive treatment along the different phases of the disease.