For centuries, sleeping sickness, or Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), caused havoc in isolated reaches of Africa, preying on people with no access to medical care or those unaware of the biological dangers they faced when wading into a foreign land. Sustained efforts to fight the disease have been largely successful, but there remain “hot spots” and “blind spots” in Central and West Africa, particularly in areas where conflict reigns but medical coverage and disease surveillance are weak.
Between 1986 and 2010, MSF teams in several countries screened nearly 3 million people and treated more than 51,000 for the disease. At present, MSF has sleeping sickness programs in several other African countries as well. Collectively, this experience has made clear the need not only for ongoing vigilance, but also for new and easier diagnostic tests and shorter, more adaptable treatment regimens for patients.