For ages, leprosy patients have been exposed to untold suffering. Age-Old tradition and ancient texts have further reinforced the negative attitudes of Leprosy. The afflicted people were usually shunned by society.
The introduction of the multi drug therapy in the 1980's was a breakthrough in leprosy, and has brought hope to millions of leprosy patients the world over. Since the development of the multi drug therapy in the early 1980's, millions of people have been cured. India's PR has come down from 57.6 in 1981 to 2.44 as on 31 March, 2004; and March 2005 witnessed a PR of 1.3 / 10,000 population. (Source: Directorate of Health, New Delhi). The Multi Drug Therapy can now cure the patients within six to twelve months. If detected and treated in the initial stages, there is no risk of deformity. Delayed treatment may sometimes cause physical deformities, but these are merely residual conditions and not contagious. To quite some extent, reconstructive surgery and assistive devices could help such persons lead a near normal life within their families and their communities without any ostracism.Leprosy is no longer 'the dreaded disease'. 'The Nippon Foundation' has been distributing the MDT free of cost the world over till the year 2000. Over 11 million people have been cured. From the year 2000, the responsibility of distributing.
Along with elimination, tackling the social problem of leprosy is a very delicate and an important issue, and has many dimensions to it. The challenge is in removing the misconceptions, the stigma associated with the disease, and changing the mindsets of the people.
The ILU approaches leprosy not just as a medical problem, but also focuses on the social dimension and the human aspects of leprosy. It believes that along with the elimination movement, attempts should be made at reducing the stigma associated with leprosy,
The misconceptions should be reduced, and the community at large should understand leprosy ' redefined' in today's context. They should know that there is a 100% cure due to MDT, leprosy is least contagious, treatment is available free of cost, deformities can be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment, deformities can be corrected through reconstructive surgeries.
The success stories of the cured persons should come to the fore. The persons once affected by leprosy and who are now leading normal lives, should be the key persons to make this 'a people's movement'.
There is yet another concern and a challenge- to reach the tribal areas and the people residing in the inaccessible hilly terrains, the migratory population, and the illiterate population. It is essential to work out strategies and a plan of action for these 'unreached' groups.
Advocacy is a process of communication and persuasion in support of a cause, a well thought of professional strategy to influence change. It is important to work out strategies to elicit the required change in the context of the medical and the social dimensions of leprosy. Today the world has come closer due to the advancement of information technology and mass communication. The print and the electronic media, newspapers, radio, television can do wonders and can play a very vital and a powerful role.
Based on the recommendations made advocacy meetings, a series of consultations were organized in six endemic states to sensitize the media towards the issues and concerns of the leprosy affected and also obtain their commitment to work for leprosy elimination and removal of stigma associated with the disease. The leprosy-cured persons were given a chance to interact with the media persons and explain their perspectives.
The WHO representatives, the Govt. officials, the NGOs, people's representatives, persons representing the print and the electronic media, and, above all, the leprosy cured persons met together. Interactions of all these stakeholders helped to chalk out strategies to facilitate change in the image of leprosy.
As a result of this vigorous campaign not only in endemic states, the all over
On 30 January 2006, (Also the World Leprosy Day) the Government of India declared that the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem i.e. a prevalence of less than 1 case per 10,000 population has been attained in India. As of 31 December 2005, the national prevalence rate of leprosy in India is reported to be 0.95/10,000 population. What is now important at this stage is to sustain the gains made so far, maintain quality leprosy services and further reduce the burden of leprosy.