The Chagas: Time to Treat Campaign was an international campaign launched by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) on July 9 2009, the centennial of the discovery of Chagas disease, to advocate for access to existing treatments and increased research and development (R&D) of new, more effective and safer treatments for Chagas disease.


Chagas disease is a potentially fatal neglected disease that affects between 8 and 10 million people worldwide. Chagas kills more people in Latin America than any other parasite-borne disease, including malaria.

Existing treatments for Chagas disease are not satisfactory and can have toxic side effects. What patients urgently needed in 2009 were affordable, safe, and efficacious diagnostics tools and treatments for children and adults as well as a drug that treats both stages of Chagas: acute and chronic. Access to treatment is also a problem: It has been estimated that less than 1% of Chagas disease patients receive any treatment at all.

Although 100 million people are at risk of being infected with Chagas disease, funding for R&D to improve treatments is extremely low, making it one of the most neglected of the neglected diseases. The campaign highlighted that in 2007, less than US$1 million (0.04% of R&D funding dedicated to neglected diseases) was spent on the development of new drugs for Chagas disease. Unfortunately, these numbers have not changed significantly since then.

The Campaign

The Chagas: Time to Treat campaign brought together partners with the following aims:

  1. Prioritize Chagas in the agenda of policy makers and donors: It is time for effective political willingness.
  2. Raise awareness on the disease and its reality: The silence around the disease must be broken.
  3. Boost R&D for new tools for the disease: New tools and sustainable mechanisms are urgently needed to allow new diagnostics and treatment.

The campaign incorporated many different tools to achieve its goals, such as participation in key congresses on Chagas and other neglected diseases, advocacy strategies in crucial meetings at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and engagement in public events.

Key Outcomes

R&D for new treatments and tools for the disease

  • Discussions among the Chagas disease scientific community gave birth to the Chagas Clinical Research Platform
  • Significant boost in DNDi portfolio of R&S projects with new partners in the pharmaceutical industry mobilized with the cause;
  • Increase of Chagas projects within the MSF network: Paraguay, Colombia and USA;
  • Registration in 2011 of a most needed paediatric formulation of benznidazole to treat Chagas disease in children;

Chagas disease in the agenda of policy makers and donors

  • World Health Organization & the Pan American Health Organization adopted Chagas resolutions recognizing the need for treatment as well as R&D;
  • US congressional support for a Chagas resolution;
  • Funding opportunities for NTDs increased with new opportunities for grants;

Awareness raised on the disease and its reality

  • Documentaries, movies, short testimonials and addresses to the general media launched;
  • A number of cutting edge scientific articles and publications;
  • In Latin America, the campaign joined the momentum created by the 100th anniversary, and inspired a sense of activism within the scientific and medical community;
  • The Chagas community put forward a call to action and is clearly engaging advocacy awareness for this disease;
  • Chagas patients mobilized around associations and a world federation;

The level of engagement achieved by the Campaign continued to grow in the following years leading to, in December 2012, the launch of the Global Chagas Disease Coalition: an open, ambitious, collaborative alliance where, together and through the sharing of expertise, knowledge, and capacity for action, hopes to achieve the goal of alleviating human suffering caused by Chagas disease and ultimately, controlling Chagas disease once and for all.

The Global Chagas Disease Coalition includes Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Fundación Mundo Sano, CEADES, and ISGlobal, with the support of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud, the Los Angeles Olive Hospital and the International Federation of People Affected by Chagas Disease (FINDECHAGAS).

The Future

Improving treatments and access to treatment for Chagas patients remains an urgent need. Find out more about what DNDi and its partners are doing for Chagas disease at DNDi’s global website and DNDi Latin America’s website.

The Partners

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – DNDi Founding PartnerInternational
Fiocruz – DNDi Founding PartnerBrazil
Institut Pasteur – DNDi Founding PartnerFrance
Indian Council of Medical Research – DNDi Founding PartnerIndia
Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) – DNDi Founding PartnerKenya
Ministry of Health – DNDi Founding PartnerMalaysia
WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) - Permanent Observer of DNDiInternational
Asociación de Amigos de las Personas con la Enfermedad de Chagas (ASAPECHA)Spain
Asociación de Lucha contra el Mal de Chagas (ALCHA)Argentina
Ambulatório Chagas/ICC (PROCAPE-UPE)Brazil
Australian Chagas's Disease AssociationAustralia
Fundación Amigos con Chagas (Fundachagas)enezuela
Fundación Mundo SanoArgentina
Laboratório Farmacêutico do Estado de Pernambuco (LAFEPE)Brazil
Olive View UCLA Medical CenterUSA
The Chagas Disease FoundationUSA
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)Canada
Sociedad Parasitológica VenezolanaVenezuela
Prefeitura de LassanceBrazil
International Federation of Medical Students' Asssociations (IFMSA)Brazil
Royal Tropical Institute – KITNetherlands
The Cinema GuildUSA
Preve filmsUSA

These partnered collaborations made possible the achievement of several successful outcomes and led to, in many cases, sustainable and fruitful future relationships.