Gender and cutaneous leishmaniasis in Colombia

Leishmaniasis in Colombia has traditionally been seen as a health risk for adult males, as they become infected when they enter the vector's biotopes to tap natural resources. National health statistics seem to confirm this theory. However, during field studies, the Program for the Study and Control of Tropical Diseases (PECET) observed both equal proportions of men and women with active leishmaniasis and delayed hypersensitivity skin tests and equal proportions of males and females having had contact with the parasite from early childhood. Several factors that have not been analyzed in depth in Colombia thus far appear to distort the disease's epidemiological pattern in the country, and gender-linked differences in access to health care appear to exist. As a consequence, no relief is provided for this source of human suffering, and socioeconomic repercussions for households are significant. Preventive measures by the Colombian Ministry of Health (MOH) systematically underestimate the magnitude of intra- and peridomiciliary transmission, and female patients are excluded from active case detection. Further research should be devoted to this phenomenon. The MOH should be encouraged to improve leishmaniasis control programs, especially with regard to active case detection, training, and teaching, so that quicker diagnosis can be performed. Meanwhile, the MOH should retrain its health personnel.

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis; Gender; Communicable Diseases

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