Bolivia: Treating Chagas patients and more

At the national level, MSF teams in Bolivia have raised concerns about access to essential medicines and treatments, particularly those that could be affected by negotiations over a free trade agreement between Bolivia and the United States.

Historically, this region has been underserved by the government and its health system, and the main objective of MSF's project is to reduce the prevalence of these four diseases in the area. In addition, MSF is seeking to implement a new treatment protocol including artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), a more effective treatment for people with malaria.

Elsewhere in Bolivia, MSF is working to help those with Chagas disease, a parasitic and ultimately lethal illness (see page 75). Bolivia is home to the world's largest number of people suffering from Chagas, with 1.8 million already infected and 3.7 million at risk. MSF treated more than 750 children with the disease between April 2003 and December 2004, and another 199 children in the first half of 2005.

Chagas mainly affects those living in poverty or in rural areas. MSF is treating people with Chagas disease in the town of Entre Rios in O'Connor province and in the slums of the city of Sucre. In Entre Rios, the team screens newborns and children between 9 months and 15 years of age, and in Sucre, it treats children up to 18 years old, as well as hospital blood donors and pregnant women. Children who test positive for the disease are treated with the available medicines and monitored closely for side effects.

In March 2005, MSF presented a new book of photography on Chagas disease at a meeting in Santa Cruz of INCOSUR, an organization of South American countries working to eliminate many of the diseases affecting the region. The book highlights the consequences and contexts of the disease, and most of the photos were taken at MSF's project in Entre Rios. The photos were also displayed as part of an exposition shown at the meeting to help raise awareness about this health problem.

At the national level, MSF teams in Bolivia have raised concerns about access to essential medicines and treatments, particularly those that could be affected by negotiations over a free trade agreement between Bolivia and the United States. During negotiation rounds held in 2004 and 2005, MSF urged the Bolivian government to exclude intellectual property provisions from the US-Andean free trade negotiations.

MSF is concerned that such provisions would have a devastating effect on access to medicines for millions of people living in Bolivia and across the Andean region because they would dramatically limit the availability of generic drugs on the market.

MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986.

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