Following the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, PAHO gives new impetus to initiatives to eliminate more than 30 infectious diseases – PAHO/WHO

WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2023 (PAHO) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Elimination Initiative aims to eliminate more than 30 communicable diseases and related conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean, today at the 60th meeting of the regional public health agency. Held during the Steering Committee session.

“As we progress through the pandemic recovery, now is the time to give elimination initiatives a new, stronger and more sophisticated boost to achieve the infectious disease goals that began with the organization’s founding 120 years ago, ” said Jabas Barbosa, Director of the Pan American Health Organization.

After a worldwide effort, smallpox was eradicated in 1980, and 14 years later, polio was eradicated from the Americas. Since then, rubella, congenital rubella syndrome, measles, and neonatal tetanus have also been eliminated, and progress has been made toward the elimination of other diseases. By 2023, 19 countries in the region have eliminated malaria, eight countries have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, and onchocerciasis is restricted to one region of the Amazon basin.

As part of the elimination initiative, to eliminate by 2030 cervical cancer, Chagas disease, cholera, hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, dog-borne human rabies, leprosy, malaria, onchocerciasis, Some diseases such as trachoma and tuberculosis. Commitments made by countries in the region at the Pan American Health Organization in 2019.

For Dr. Barbosa, lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as previous elimination experiences, present an opportunity for countries to take advantage of the initiative and accelerate its pace. Other opportunities include delivering vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and other technologies through PAHO, as well as advancing digital health, developing a deeper understanding of health inequalities and increasing community engagement.

Elimination initiatives aim to interrupt endemic transmission, eliminate morbidity and mortality, and prevent disability.

To achieve this, it proposes strategies including consolidating programs and strengthening first-level care, as well as strengthening surveillance and health information systems. It also calls for addressing the environmental and social determinants of health, focusing on inequalities and disadvantaged groups, and strengthening ministry of health leadership.

During the meeting, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health, Care and Environment, Sir Merwin Joseph, presented on the country’s efforts to eliminate cervical cancer. Fernanda Dockhorn, director of Brazil’s National Tuberculosis Program, shares Brazil’s new efforts to eradicate the infectious disease, focusing on social determinants; Uruguay’s Health Minister Carina Lando shares how to use the numbers Registration and geolocation tools help unvaccinated people’s experiences.

Philippe Duniton, Executive Director of UNITAID, introduced health innovations that could help eliminate diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Magdalena Robert, deputy director of advocacy and communications for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Polio and Vaccination Program, highlighted the organization’s support for the region to ensure girls in low-income countries Vaccines to prevent cervical cancer are also available.

At the end of the meeting, the PAHO director presented Belize’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Kevin Bernard, with a certificate from the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizing the Central American country as malaria-free, the last in the region to achieve this country with this goal. Belize reported its last indigenous malaria case in 2018 and was certified malaria-free in May 2023.

Minister Bernard insisted: “This is the culmination of a long and hard-fought battle spanning seven decades.” He added: “None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of grassroots organizations and the dedication of health workers , which is the cornerstone of our success.”

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