The New HIV/AIDS of the AmericasChagas disease, a vector-borne infectious disease that is transmitted through triatomine bugs, has been dubbed “the new HIV/AIDS of the Americas.” Triatomine bugs are also known as “kissing bugs,” because the bugs will bite and defecate near the mouths of humans. Then, humans will touch or rub near their mouths, which is how the disease is spread.

Furthermore, Chagas disease is a type of neglected tropical disease, which have become increasingly virulent in North and South America. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines neglected diseases as being “largely wiped out in the more developed parts of the world and persist only in the poorest, most marginalized communities and conflict areas.” The CDC indicated that people of low socioeconomic status are more susceptible to contracting a neglected tropical disease. People of low socioeconomic status, which are increasingly reflective of minority groups such as women and people of color, are at higher risk of contracting a neglected tropical disease due to a lack of resources.

Like Chagas disease, many neglected tropical diseases are vector-borne, and they must travel through an intermediate host in order to transmit infections to humans. An example of an intermediate host that carries the specific pathogens for an abundance of neglected tropical diseases is the mosquito. Many countries in South America have climates and ecologies that are ideal for mosquitoes to flourish in.

Preventative programs in poor areas are supported by organizations such as the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). For instance, the CDC and the WHO have both collaborated in order to support the Guinea Worm Eradication Program, which provided surveillance and diagnosed people for Guinea worms, another neglected disease.

Chagas disease is difficult to eradicate due to the fact that more than half of triatomine bugs in the United States carry the disease; however, the CDC reports that the best measures to take in order to prevent the spread of Chagas disease are vector control, blood screening and diagnosis of infection. Diagnosis of infection in pregnant women is especially important, because the disease can spread to their newborns. By continuing to follow these measures, the effect of Chagas disease can be limited, decreasing the burden on vulnerable populations.


Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Cause of Poverty in Mexico
The definition of wealth inequality is the unequal distribution of household or individual income across the various participants in an economy. Wealth inequality is a daunting social issue persisting in many countries. It is one of the main causes of poverty in Mexico.

Wealth inequality in Mexico is extremely high. Although Mexico is among the top 14 richest countries as calculated by GDP, over half the population lives in poverty. The gap between the wealthy and the poor in Mexico continues to expand.

Consuelo Lopez-Zuriaga, the Oxfam Mexico Executive Director states that “while the wealth of Mexican multimillionaires is multiplied by five, 48 percent of state schools have no access to sewage, 31 percent have no drinking water, 12.8 percent have no bathrooms or toilets and 11.2 percent have no access to electricity.”

Just one percent of the population owns about half of the country’s wealth. While their wealth increases, the poverty rate in Mexico has not decreased by much, leaving an estimated 53.3 million people living below the poverty line. From 2012 to 2014, the poverty rate in Mexico only fell by 0.3 percent. This implies that efforts to confront the issue have been unsuccessful.

President Peña Nieto recognizes that inequality along with corruption and global economic turmoil are the primary challenges that Mexico’s economy faces. Under President Peña Nieto, the poverty rate has only increased, and many criticize him for a lack of dedication to combating poverty. In fact, some say that encouraging large-scale private and foreign investment is the primary focus of the administration.

Though there are small successes in developmental programs aimed at combatting poverty in Mexico, it is not enough to resolve the underlying issues. Wealth inequality is one the worst causes of poverty in Mexico that is unsolved as it continues to increase the poverty rates. Strategization by those in power will need to be rethought in order to better distribute wealth to Mexico’s citizens in the future.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 — but the story of European “discovery” and subsequent conquest of the Americas is much more complex than a children’s nursery rhyme can convey. Although America today is seen as the land of the free and the brave, one must remember that the Americas were free and brave long before the clash of the “Old” and “New” worlds. Here are seven facts about the conquest of the Americas:

  1. One of the most famous encounters between the “New” and “Old World” occurred in 1533, when the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, led 168 of his men into the highlands of Peru to seize the Inca Empire. Pizarro captured and then ransomed the Inca emperor, Atahualpa, forcing the Incas to surrender.
  2. Although war and conquest do account for a large number of indigenous peoples’ deaths during the conquest of the Americas, scholars estimate that thousands more died from exposure to diseases brought over by Europeans for which the indigenous population had not had the chance to develop antibodies or immunity. Such diseases included smallpox, influenza and malaria.
  3. Scientists and experts are at odds with each other over the question of whether or not horses are an indigenous American species. Common knowledge holds that horses were not present in North America until the mid-1500s when Christopher Columbus and the numerous Spanish voyages of conquest introduced them to the continent. But more recent research places ancient horses in North America as recent at 7600 BCE. Whatever the correct answer, one cannot deny that having horses gave the Europeans a significant advantage.
  4. People often credit Christopher Columbus with “discovering” America, but more recent scholarship says otherwise. In actuality, a band of Viking explorers led by Leif Eriksson reached what is now Newfoundland as early as 500 years before Columbus ever set foot in America.
  5. Like Pizarro, Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez reached present-day Mexico in 1519 and encountered the indigenous Aztec people. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, welcomed Cortez and his men into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Cortez, however, captured Montezuma and forced the Aztecs to surrender to him, further solidifying the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
  6. It goes without saying that wherever the European conquerors landed, there was a devastating blow to the indigenous population there. When Columbus met the Taino Indians on the island of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic), the indigenous population fell from 600,000 to 60,000 in only twenty years. In Mexico, the indigenous population fell from 25 million to one million in just a hundred years.
  7. The conquest of the Americas didn’t stop with the Spanish conquest, however. After settling in North America, the Europeans who stayed there eventually broke off with Europe and formed the United States and pushed ever westward following the ideals of “Manifest Destiny.” Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado estimates that the indigenous population of North America fell from 12 million in 1500 to 237,000 in 1900. Although the “American Indian Wars” definitely contributed to this significant drop, experts agree that the biggest blow to the population was in the form of economic and social upheaval.

The meeting of two worlds came with both good and bad consequences. It is important to remember the consequences of the conquest of the Americas in order to move forward positively as a nation. With hope, future discoveries and explorations will lead to improved, rather than strained, relations.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr