Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of infectious diseases that subsist in tropical and subtropical climates through 149 countries. Currently, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide are affected by at least one of the 17 NTDs recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). NTDs are called “neglected” because while they have been largely wiped out of the most developed areas, they persist in the poorest and most marginalized societies. If left untreated, NTDs can cause substantial illness and suffering, hampering children from attending to school and reducing adult economic productivity. As a result, families, communities and countries become trapped in a cycle of disease and poverty.
Anahuac University, where I am a student, is a private Mexican university that was founded in 1964 with a clear mission: “To be a university community that contributes and promotes the process of integral formation of the people who for their excellent and innovative professional and cultural preparation of international level, for their profound human and moral formation inspired by the perennial values of Christian humanism, and for its genuine social consciousness, are leaders of positive action that promote the development of the human being and society.”
END7 team Mexico has been active at Anahuac University North Campus through since I was accepted to the END7 Campus Leaders Council. I am a postgraduate student of the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and student of the Master on Health Sciences with special interest on NTDs, Global Health and Humanitarian Aid.
Ending the neglect of NTDs at Anahuac University is the priority of the Anahuac University Neglected Tropical Diseases Interest Group, which is in the process of formation with at least 50 internal and external members recruited, including students and professors from across several disciplines. Many of them have been already working on advocacy, awareness, education, fundraising and research to fight NTDs with END7. Thereby, we present a brief summary of activities that have been done during our first six months of work:
- Almost 100 signatures were collected for the USAID NTD Program 10th anniversary petition
- One amateur soccer team with twenty members was suited up with personalized uniforms designed by Manuel Leyva to support END7 through 2016-2017 seasons. Each player’s jersey was emblazoned with the name of a NTD and the hashtag #EndTheNeglect. This action generated interest and curiosity among soccer players and their families in a league with nearly 400 registered players
- One article about END7 and the END7 Campus Leaders Council was published at Anahuac University social media
- A workshop for twelve high school students was given in coordination with Diego Russo at Thomas Jefferson School Emerald Zone campus
- Three workshops for 125 pre-medical students were given in coordination with Joanne Joloy at Anahuac University North and South campus
- A review article about American trypanosomiasis entitled “Chagas disease: Current perspectives on a forgotten disease” was published in coordination with Giorgio Franyuti at Revista Médica del Hospital General de México
- Almost three hundred and fifty dollars were collected for the year-end fundraising push
- One line of experimental research about Trypanosoma cruzi has been active with Diego Alvarez, tutored by Ana María Fernández Presas, at the Ultrastructural Parasitic Laboratory in the Microbiology and Parasitology Department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Master’s degree thesis)
- One line of research about Leishmania mexicana has been active with Rosalino Vázquez, tutored by Laila Gutiérrez Kobeh, at the Experimental Medicine Department of the Hospital General de México (Doctorate’s degree thesis)
It is clear that the control, elimination and eradication of NTDs is a team effort. Having concluded the first six months of work and having beaten the challenges of a new startup project, now with full support of Tomás Barrientos Fortes, our Health Sciences Faculty director, we are committed to expanding our community and magnifying our response. Currently, we are working on scientific paper in collaboration with a team led by Gerald Oyeki, another END7 Campus Leaders Council member from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. We hope for a 2017 full of alliances and collaborations.
We are eager to continue making progress and are now planning for NTD Awareness Week. Since 2012, each year on January 30 we commemorate the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, which was inspired by the WHO’s 2020 Roadmap on NTDs. The London Declaration is special because it has been a keystone in the fight against NTDs, as several public and private sectors committed themselves to enhance a better and accelerated response by working together. Therefore, we celebrate NTD Awareness Week during the week following the London Declaration anniversary by spreading the word to build awareness and fundraise worldwide. We are planning to publish two pieces in a local newspaper and post on social media summarizing the END7 campaign’s achievements and the relevance of NTDs Awareness Week. We are also planning two events led by two of our strongest members. Our first event will be an acoustic night with Lalo Onti, a young Mexican musician on the rise who is lending his voice to fundraise for END7, is planned for Saturday, February 4 at La Peña del Sapo Cancionero, a venue with capacity for one hundred audience members. We are also organizing a week-long fundraiser on the “Responde A.C.” website, a Non-Governmental Organization led by Joanne Joloy.
Many students and professors think that they cannot make a big difference in the fight against NTDs if their area of expertise isn’t related to a medical career, but that’s not true, because these diseases doesn’t discriminate and every extra hand matters. Each of us has different abilities and skills, and by joining them, we will have more tools to tackle the burden of NTDs and lead people who suffer from them to a stronger and healthier future in our road to control, eliminate and eradicate several of them by 2020. So please, don’t hesitate in joining us, your contribution to this work can help save the life of someone affected by NTDs.
As a medical surgeon with interest and passion for infectious diseases, Diego Alvarez is currently studying a Master’s degree of Health Sciences at Anahuac University North Campus as he does laboratory research on Chagas disease at the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Also he has been working for several years on Antimicrobial Resistance at the Health Sciences Faculty of the Anahuac University North Campus. Today he works at the Coordination of Medical Services of the Mexican Red Cross PAR Huixquilucan Office and is a member of the END7 Campus Leaders Council and of the Young Researchers Track as well as the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.