Rio conference highlights neglected diseases

Gathering in Brazil seeks to raise awareness and ensure increased funding for diseases affecting a billion people.

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    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - About a billion people worldwide suffer from neglected diseases which receive little attention - or funding to cure or treat them.

    Latin America, where 34 percent of people live in poverty, is particularly affected.

    A group of doctors and patients met this week at a global conference in Rio de Janeiro to try to change the situation.

    "I had this for 26 years, waiting for a drug that works," Moacir Zini, a leishmaniasis patient, told Al Jazeera.

    "People haven't faced what I have: discrimination. When I go out for lunch, a coffee or an ice-cream with my kids, people would look at me. I don't want people to go through what I did."

    Only 4 percent of new drugs and vaccines manufactured from the year 2000 to 2010 were for neglected diseases, one of which is Chagas, a disease that can lead to heart failure.

    Almost eight million people, mainly in Latin America, are infected by Chagas, according to the World Health Organization.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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