Busting the misconceptions
LEPROSY STILL STAYS ALONE , TRYING TO FIGHT ALL THE ODDS.
By Aditi Panda
Leprosy is one of the diseases which is highly misinterpreted. A vigilant assessment, sane retrospection and a holistic approach will lead to a significant insight. India has been officially declared free of leprosy in 2005, but is it the reality? Ever since the cert i f ied declaration about India attaining leprosy free status, the government has changed its attention to other crucial diseases plaguing the populace. The structure of detecting leprosy at an early stage was dropped to a large amount and the door- todoor checks like for Tuberculosis, to identify leprosy was discontinued years ago. The annual check among school children to identify signs of the disease at this early age also suffered the same setback. There are different obstacles that weaken the battle against leprosy, many are societal and cultural. A lot depends on the public support, perception and knowledge which play a vital role in not just eradicating the disease but also in including the afflicted victims in the mainstream society. “Since India was declared free from leprosy in 2005, the Government declared that the Leprosy programme be integrated into the general health system. In view of the fact that there was less man-power in the rural areas, people with leprosy suffered a lot as the paramedical staff lacked the training and resources to treat these people. The over burdened staff think of these patients as a huge burden. More than a medical problem it’s a mindset that works against this disease. People dread of catching this disease and more awareness on leprosy is needed along with the hygiene and sanitation aspects,” says Mitra Mukherjee, who with her friends create awareness on this disease. Many NGOs are working for the cause in convergence with ILEP (International federation of Anti Leprosy Associations) and their partners in India. There are 9 such agencies across the nations that are engaged through a MoU with the Central Leprosy Division, GOI. The common goal of these organisations is ‘a world without leprosy’, which has come like a ray of sun and a healing touch to the people affected by leprosy and their families. Even today there are many missionaries dedicatedly working for the people affected by leprosy as they link it to service to god. “This is a huge subject where many have their own views. WHO has been constantly advocating for a holistic approach in the process of rehabilitation. I still recommend the empowerment of people affected by leprosy would produce the best result. Empowerment through dissemination of knowledge, bui lding ski l ls, providing information and facilitation of a platform to exercise their participation would be the best way to tell them about their rights to identify the availability of services so that they can approach & avail the services. The time has seen the development of people’s association and like APAL (Association of People Affected by Leprosy) initiated by ILEP agencies who at different level represent the people and raise the voice at different platforms. However, they claim to represent the whole nation but limit it to the people who reside in a leprosy colony. This association has lots of potential but they are just limiting themselves to the tune of ILEP agencies,”says Bijoy K Swain, Programme Manager for a Leprosy Program and Rehabilitation Specialist.There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding leprosy. It spreads during the contact with the mucus of an infected person, which generally happens when the infected person sneezes or coughs. The disease isn’t highly infectious but the regular contact with the untreated person can lead to contracting leprosy. People who live constantly as an individual with untreated leprosy have an eightfold high chance of developing the disease. This can be because of genetic factors concerning condition and/or prolonged intimate touch. It’s essential to know that the partner is at minimum danger but at danger are parents, siblings or children having leprosy. Leprosy can’t be extended from a mother to her unborn baby or through sexual relation. The Law Commission has drafted legislation, Eliminating Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill, 2015which includes principles of non-discrimination and equal protection before law that must be guaranteed to all persons affected by Leprosy or members of their family. It also promotes there social inclusion and emphasizes on non- discrimination, proper land rights and right to employment. The commission also recommends appropriate education and use training opportunities to make them financially independent. The Law Commission urge that the term ‘leper’ and other such terms in all government and private documents should be replaced with ‘persons affected by Leprosy’ or a similar term”, shared Abha Singh who advocates for people having leprosy. World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on January 30th or it’s nearest Sunday with an objective to raise awareness of a disease that many people believe to be extinct, when in fact over 2 lakh new cases are diagnosed each year. Let’s make a promise to change our attitude towards leprosy and bring happiness and joy in their lives and make India free from leprosy in realm.