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World Leprosy Day

‘World Leprosy Day’, which was founded during the first half of the 1950s thanks to the role of the French writer Raoul Follereau, is not only a day of reflection on the victims of this devastating disease. It is first and foremost a day of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are afflicted by it.

Leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease, in reality continues to infect hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world every year. According to the most recent statistics published by the World Health Organisation, 210,000 new cases were registered in the year 2009.

29th January 2012

The Enduring Stigma

On July 25, 1987 I had the privilege to participate to the 1st Symposium on the Social Aspects of Leprosy at the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation in Wardha, India. 

After that Mr S.P. Tare, the then director of the institution and dedicated leprosy activist until his death in 2001, held periodical sessions mainly centred on the social stigma associated to the Hansen’s disease.

What is striking is that 23 years later (The Leprosy Review by Lepra, Sept. 2010) and almost 30 since the introduction of the multi-drug therapy (MDT), we read that “The impact of stigma is remarkably similar in different countries and health conditions, despite enormous cultural diversity and differences in determinants. […] It should be possible to develop a generic set of stigma assessment instruments.”

In other words we are still speaking in terms of search for means to assess something that should have been gone for some time by now. We are not even mentioning solutions!

As was highlighted at the 17th International Leprosy Congress held in India on January 30 thru February 4, 2008 “There is still need to continue research for new, shorter, possibly fully supervised, MDT regimens, based on the combination of highly bactericidal drugs” simply because “the challenge of similar yearly numbers of emerging new cases and the problem of reactions and nerve damage leading to disability remains a serious issue” (Sixth Meeting of the IDEAL Consortium held in Beijing on 23-25 Aug. 2010).

In such overall disheartening situation some ray of hope came last December with the adoption, by consensus by 192 countries, of a resolution submitted by the Japanese government at the UN General Assembly on ending discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their families, together with principles and guidelines.
And right on the heels of that, on 25 January 2011 the sixth Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy was launched in Beijing, and the appeal was signed by over 100 leading universities and focuses on the important role played by education.

In support of the policies of the international organizations and the national government, humbly MAITRI continues its painstaking work in the field bringing awareness, assistance, and relief to the Hansenians.

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MAITRI Charitable Trust
PO Box 32 , Bodhgaya
Gaya District, Bihar 824 231

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