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Chagas Disease FAQ

Is Chagas Disease Really the 'AIDS of the Americas'?

Is Chagas Disease Really Like AIDS?

In some ways, the comparison of Chagas to AIDS is unfortunate.

Unlike HIV, the AIDS virus, Chagas parasites cannot be spread via sex. Untreated HIV infection is almost always fatal, while 70% to 80% of people with Chagas disease do not develop severe heart disease.

But Chagas disease does share some features with AIDS:

  • Both are diseases of poverty. In the Americas, Chagas is mainly a problem of the "bottom 100 million" people who suffer from at least one of the so-called neglected tropical diseases.
  • Both diseases carry significant stigma. In the U.S., undocumented workers infected with Chagas disease may not seek treatment due to fear of deportation.
  • Both diseases are treated with drugs that are in short supply.
  • Both diseases are treated with expensive drugs.
  • Lack of access to medical care complicates both the Chagas and AIDS epidemics.
  • There is no vaccine either for Chagas disease or for HIV/AIDS.

Whether Chagas disease really is the "AIDS of the Americas," as Baylor College of Medicine's Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, and colleagues suggest, is in the eye of the beholder.

But Hotez's team has done something good for millions of people. They've brought a seriously neglected, serious disease to the attention of the world.

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