The Anti-Leprosy Campaign said that among the 2000 new cases of leprosy diagnosed per annum, there were cases of patients being discriminated at places of work, education and community level.
Over the past decade, there have been around 2000 new cases per year. Although many activities have been done in this regard by the relevant health authorities including the Ministry of Health, the Campaign, hospitals, health staff including medical officers of health and public health inspectors, the number of cases remain the same. In 2015, the number of cases involving children went up slightly and came down last year.
Deputy Director of the Campaign, Dr. Priyantha Karunaratne said that poor awareness among communities about the disease, which resulted in treatment not being obtained during the early stages, and associated societal stigma were the main challenges they faced in addressing the disease.
Regarding the latter, during the last couple of years, there have been cases where patients have been discriminated at workplaces, school and even at home.
Leprosy-ridden children have refused admission to schools while teachers have been transferred.
Others have had to abandon houses they occupied in their community and shift while patients are marginalized.
“Previously, there were social marketing campaigns done in relation to this but at the moment there is none”, Dr. Karunaratne noted while adding that due to non-awareness patients do not take treatment for skin diseases and conditions with symptoms such as patches on the skin, insensate patches, hypopigmentation and thickening of nerves at an early stage and wait until complications arose.
Leprosy spreads slowly and symptoms remain dormant for lengthy periods prior to cropping up. Qualified medical practitioners and doctors including those who engage in allopathic medicinal treatment possess the knowledge to identify this ordinary communicable disease which is 100% curable meaning that 48 hours following treatment patients no longer are transmitters of the disease. RLJ