In the territory shared by Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, known as the South American Chaco, there are many issues, including a lack of access to health services. Since 2017, the Pan American Health Organization has implemented a project that seeks to strengthen health services for 400,000 people across seven departments of these three countries. Around 30% of these people belong to indigenous communities.
Miguel Ixtox is 82 years old and lives in the indigenous community of Guineales in the Boca Region of Guatemala, a humid area characterized by its high temperatures, poverty and isolation. Miguel has experienced problems with his eyes for the past five years that have left him unable to see properly. Something which began with an irritation, has today left him in permanent pain and on the verge of blindness.
Due to advances in treatment and care, advocacy, health promotion and public education, people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are living longer than ever. However, this longevity also makes them susceptible to other illnesses including non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders. The need for other services such as mental and psychosocial support is therefore vital for this population.
One out of 10 babies in the Americas is born prematurely (before 37 weeks). Quality care, adequate temperatures, breastmilk, and follow up services are key to preventing complications and ensuring the healthy development of these babies.
The municipality of Puerto Lempiras is located in a dense jungle that is only accessible by water transport, or by aircraft. The Miskito Indians are the predominant ethnic group in the area, where most malaria cases in the country are reported. However, efforts by health authorities and partners have resulted in a 92 percent reduction in malaria cases since 2016.
“This has been a very enriching experience. The objective now is to go back to my country and help create a program that performs this kind operation,” said Daniel Vargas, an Ecuadorian surgeon, who participated in the first course on pediatric liver transplants at Garrahan Hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I’d always lived a double life, imprisoned in a man’s body. Everyone expected something from me as man, and I just couldn’t keep it up,” said Luana, a 36 year old trans-woman who lived that double life until she was 30.
Lymphatic Filariasis is a mosquito-borne, parasitic disease, which threatens the health of around 500,000 people in Guyana. While it is not fatal, it affects the lymphatic system, leading to a variety of permanent, debilitating symptoms including severe swelling of the genitals (hydrocele) and lower extremities (elephantitis, or “big foot” as it is more commonly known in the country).
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), alongside the Ministry of Health in the Bahamas, is coordinating disaster-relief efforts by partners and agencies from all over the world to help the people of the Bahamas access the care they need.
“My sister is a diamond in the rough. I cherish her to the moon and back,” said 32-year old, security officer and mother of two, Laurel Dean, as she recounts how the quick reactions of her sister prevented her 10-year old daughter from flying away in the hurricane. “I’ve watched movies and stuff, but to see it knock on my door – I never would’ve expected it.”
The Caño Fibra community is located along the banks of the Orinoco River in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas. This remote area in the municipality of Atabapo, yet to see electricity, gas, or piped water services, is home to 15 families of the Piaroa, Jivi, and Puinave native ethnic groups. Enoc Navarro, his partner Juanilde González, and their five children ranging from 2 to 8 years in age are one of these families.
Latin American journalists are redefining how they communicate about suicide. For many years, cases of suicide have been treated as a spectacle in the media or they have been silenced for fear of “contagion”.
A dozen young people from nine different countries in Latin America came together recently at the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Mexico City, Mexico, to develop a new youth-friendly communication strategy related to HIV prevention for young gay men and those having sex with other men.
Carmen Osorio was 16 years old when she first helped a pregnant woman who was about to give birth. “I was passing by and a lady called out to me, saying: ‘ay, girl, my husband took off for the bush so I have to go through this by myself.‘ I told her I didn’t know what to do, but she insisted that I help her and a baby girl came out. I cut the cord and was no longer afraid,” she recalls. Carmen is now 58 and has attended 1,037 births.
When Dr. Ana Patricia Vélez (62) was diagnosed with hepatitis C more than 20 years ago, nucleic acid testing to diagnose the disease was not available in Guatemala and there was a major lack of awareness and painful stigma associated with its transmission. But Patricia, unlike many others, was able to send blood samples abroad in order to be diagnosed. However, it was only three years ago she could purchase and get the treatment that finally cured her.
“I’m cured,” said Diego Villoldo with a big smile after getting the results of his treatment for hepatitis C, which he received at a hospital in the city of Buenos Aires. Diagnosed in 2007, it had been a long and at times rocky road, but within three months the new revolutionary treatment allowed him to look toward a bright new future now devoted to his interest in music.
“Has the boy ever had chucho?” asked Felipe Sanchez, a health worked in Salvador Mazza, Salta, to a boy’s mother who lay sick in her arms one day in 1987. “Chucho” is still a popular name for malaria even today.
“The death of a child is a truly dramatic situation. It is a tragedy for the family and above all for the mother who carried that child for nine months and hoped that he or she would grow up and one day become someone on whom she could rely in her old age. You feel the pain of a child’s death,” says epidemiologist Robert Barrais, who has been Chief of the Epidemiological Surveillance Service of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) since April 2010.
“Today is a special day. We are going to go to a health party,” Sandra Cabaña told her seven children and three grandchildren on the afternoon of April 26, in the provincial city of Córdoba in central Argentina. A few hours later, the entire family was participating in Vaccination Night, along with thousands of other people protecting themselves from vaccine-preventable diseases while enjoying games and musical entertainment—all free of charge at this nontraditional event.
“I‘ve lived on the street since I was 10 years old, smoking “paco” (coca paste), until I came to “die” in this neighborhood. But I didn’t die. I’m alive! And now I work with young people in hospitals, farms, communities and the neighborhood. This is my home. I am happy and I feel love like I’ve never felt before,” said Lucas Algañaraz with a look of happiness in his eyes.
Don Manuel Cac is 75 years old and has begun to pay more attention to his health since graduating from the “Take control of your health” program, which aims to promote self-care among Guatemala’s elderly population living with noncommunicable diseases.
In Comapa, Guatemala, a project initiated by the Entomology and Parasitology Laboratory of the University of San Carlos identified risk factors that led to the infestation of houses by the vector that transmits Chagas disease. Three of these factors were associated with the quality of floors and walls, and the presence of animals inside homes. The program worked with the community to determine the best way of filling the cracks where the vectors can lodge, using locally available materials and employing techniques culturally appropriate to the community. The project also sought to increase awareness about the health hazards associated with this disease. Community leaders were trained on how to improve their own homes and implement healthy ways of managing their animals.
In La Mosquitia, in the Honduran department of Gracias a Dios, a group of doctors has been implementing a series of health interventions that use technology to improve access to health for a population that is accessible only by air or water. MosquitiaMed works through educational programs in rural areas to promote solutions to simple health problems at the community level. The initiative has developed videos on health topics in the local indigenous language, making use of cell phone service to disseminate the content. It has also created a telemedicine app for mobile devices that allows people to consult various specialists based in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital.
An interdisciplinary group, brought together by researchers at Universidad del Valle, in Guatemala, implemented a project in the municipality of Comapa designed to reduce the likelihood of homes being re-infested by the vector of Chagas disease, by providing the community with tools for managing the animals on which the vector feeds. The initiative also sought to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients with Chagas disease at the Comapa Health Center. In addition, the program has helped reduce mother-to-child transmission of the disease, using a strategy that could also prove effective in preventing transmission of the Zika virus.
Paquita Medina sells tortillas to make a living – but not just any tortillas. The ones Paquita makes are prepared without fat, meaning a healthier choice is available for the people in Paquita´s community.
"Do you know why vaccinations are so important," asked the nurse as she flicked through baby Valentino's vaccination record. "To protect my child," said Candela. "Yes," answered the nurse at the Pedro de Elizalde Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires, "but to also help protect everyone else."
Marcela Cuadrado began to work at the public polyclinic in the Uruguayan town of San Bautista in 2005, the year that discussion began on reforming the Integrated National Health System to facilitate universal access to health care and strengthen primary care.
Karla Bethania Ortiz, 26, from Comarca Bosque de Xiloá, Nicaragua, never understood why she was not vaccinated as a child. Unlike her friends, she did not have a vaccination card.
A mother gazes at her daughter in the incubator, talks to her, caresses her hands. She says the baby girl "gets crazy" when it's time to hold her in her arms. The baby is premature, born before 39 weeks, but she is receiving the care she needs at the Newborn Services ward at the Pereira Rossell Hospital Center in Montevideo, Uruguay.
An immunization campaign using both fractional and complete doses of the yellow fever vaccine is under way in the municipality of São Paulo, in more than 20 of the city's 96 districts. The strategy is part of a comprehensive vaccination plan developed by Brazil with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Luciano works in a gold mine in the Suriname forest area. Although he is young and strong, he had to stop working for several days when he was overcome by fever, chills and sweat. He had contracted malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Although the country has drastically reduced malaria cases in the last 15 years, it still occurs in some areas, especially in the mining areas of District Sipaliwini, along the border area with French Guiana. The district also borders Brazil and Guyana.
Central America provides a success model for the coordinated fight against NIDs in the Americas. Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama have worked for more than 14 years to interrupt the transmission of Chagas disease.