Rio conference highlights neglected diseases

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

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