A campaign to convince Latin American countries to do more to tackle a problem which is the leading cause of death in AIDS and yet is poorly understood, often misdiagnosed and frequently left untreated has been launched.
Experts from GAFFI (Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections) believe more than 80,000 AIDS deaths worldwide can be attributed to histoplasmosis, an airborne infection which is related primarily to bat and bird dropping exposure in soil. They want the deadly fungal disease adopted as a priority by key public health agencies and have today sent out an open letter to every pan American health organisation.
It stresses that if the UNAIDS target of reducing AIDS deaths to under 500,000 is to be achieved, action needs to be taken now on tackling histoplasmosis.
GAFFI's President is Dr David Denning who is Professor of Infectious Diseases in Global Health at The University of Manchester. He wants greater awareness of the deadly disease and more reliable and practical tests made available in those countries most affected.
He explains; "For example, in Manaus, Brazil, the age range of cases is 12-42 years, with an overall mortality of 48 per cent while in Panama, the median age of cases is 33 years, and 59 per cent of these patient die.
"However, histoplasmosis doesn't only affect AIDS patients. It can attack people without underlying health conditions and any immunocompromised patients. So, even when AIDS is conquered, histoplasmosis will continue to pose problems, so improved diagnosis and therapy is required as part of capacity strengthening in very many countries."