Forum on Neglected Diseases: The Voice of Civil Society
On September 9 and 10, 2023, the 8th Edition of the Brazilian Social Forum to Fight Infectious and Neglected Diseases (Neglected Tropical Diseases, or NTDs) was held as part of the Medtrop 2023 (Conference of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine), which had as a main theme: "Challenges for Tropical Medicine in the 21st Century: How to face them".
This event, which has been held every year since 2016 in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, takes place at the Institute of Public Health of the Federal University of Bahia (ISC/UFBA) and at the Convention Center; and was attended by representatives of the Forum committee, the presidents of the associations of people affected by Chagas disease in Brazil, as well as leaders of other social movements against diseases such as leprosy, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, viral hepatitis, lymphatic filariasis and tuberculosis.
The Forum calls for leaders of organizations and social movements that fight for the rights of people and communities affected by neglected diseases. It is an opportunity to represent and give voice to these people, and defending a space for their demands and rights.
Medtrop 2023 opened with Amélia Bispo, president of the Chagas Association in Bahia, Achaba, reading the Salvador's open letter to the public health authorities. Later, in addition to the round tables, there was also time to establish working groups around six thematic points: (1) Comprehensive Care and intersectoral coordination; (2) Science, Technology and Innovation; (3) Health Education; (4) Civil Society; (5) Human Rights and (6) Access to medicines.
The main demands presented by the speakers and panelists referred to the need to strengthen Primary Care and to take Neglected Diseases as a priority for the SUS territorial teams (the brazilian health system). The president of the opening table, Mitermayer Galvão, highlighted the need to promote research for the affected Brazilian population. Also, Nésio Fernandes, doctor and Secretary in primary health care for the Ministry of Health, addressed other topics such as public management, as well as the importance of listening and acting directly in the territories. Everyone at Medtrop agreed on the urgency of addressing these issues as a priority on the public agenda.
Just a few weeks later, during the presentation of the "Strategy for the Health Economic-Industrial Complex", the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, together with the Minister of Health, Nísia Trindade, symbolized the commitment and aspiration of their country to lead efforts to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) as a public health problem, by accepting the #IWearTheTShirt of the World Chagas Disease Day campaign, by BeatChagas. The t-shirt is an initiative to give visibility to this silent and silenced disease, being the most neglected of the twenty NTDs recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), and among the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations.
Brazil has a high mortality burden for this reason, being one of the four main causes of death due to infectious and parasitic diseases, and affecting around 1 and 2.4% of its population, which represents between 1.9 and 4.6 million people affected.
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