World Leprosy Eradication Day

Anti Leprosy Day (Martyrdom Day of Mahatma Gandhi) 2015 would be celebrated all over India at Friday, on 30th of January.

A contagious disease that affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities. Leprosy is now mainly confined to tropical Africa and Asia.

World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on 30th January or the Sunday closest to that date. The main purpose of this festival is to increase public awareness of Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. This particular day was actually chosen to commemorate the death of Indian leader, Gandhi, who understood the importance of this disease. Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases recorded in the world. The disease targets the nervous system, especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the human body which include the feet, hands and face.

World Leprosy Day creates awareness that leprosy is in fact curable. This day is meant to help people living with the disease to understand that it is in fact a curable disease and to know that other people care about them. Though the disease has a cure, there are many people living with the disease. Leprosy holds the stigma that it is like HIV/AIDS which is why World Leprosy Day was developed to educated people and removes or weakens the stigma. Typically leprosy is associated with being highly contagious and has disfigurement properties. Once the diagnosis is made a person suffering from leprosy become social pariahs. This is another reason why World Leprosy Day was established.

Leprosy  also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium lepraeand Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

The two main types of disease are based on the number of bacteria present: paucibacillary and multibacillary. The two types are differentiated by the number of poorly pigmented, numb skin patches present, with paucibacillary having five or fewer and multibacillary having more than five. The diagnosis is confirmed by finding acid-fast bacilli in a biopsy of the skin or via detecting the DNA by polymerase chain reaction. It occurs more commonly among those living in poverty and is believed to be transmitted by respiratory droplets. It is not very contagious.

Raoul Follereau is credited to organize the World Leprosy Day in 1954. He said, “so that people affected by leprosy could be cared for like all others who are ill and so that those in good health could be cured of their absurd and often criminal fear of this disease and those who are affected by it”. Leprosy is a major disease affecting millions of people all over the world. The worst aspect about this disease is that, there is a visible discrimination against the patients. They are deprived of their basic rights. Not just society but also the family members of the people affected by leprosy are accused of discrimination against these innocent souls.

World Leprosy Eradication Day aims to foster respect for the rights and dignity of those who are affected by this disease. Though, much needed to be done to eradicate discrimination against them but the United Nations has initiated several positive steps to counter this global phenomenon. World Health Organization (WHO) has created “Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing the Disease Burden Due to Leprosy 2011-2015”. According to new guidelines, “Constant efforts should be made to ensure that discriminatory, derogatory or undignified references to persons affected by leprosy are avoided altogether”.

A new set of Draft Guidelines and Principles is being finalized by the advisory committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The documentation will be submitted in the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council. UN has paid special attention to promotion of equity and equal opportunities for people affected by leprosy. The United Nations is having close consultation with scientists, members of the ILEP and medical experts to completely eradicate this problem. On World Leprosy Eradication Day, fundraising and awareness events are organized in many parts of the world. The day calls upon all the humans to accord dignity and respect to the persons affected with leprosy.

Objectives of Celebrating Anti Leprosy Day

  • To raise the leprosy awareness among people.
  • To offer help to those affected by disease through the regular and free of cost treatment they need.
  • To make the diseased person psychologically strong and help them to cope up with physical impairments of skin sores and nerve damage.
  • To ascertain that all affected persons are getting the necessary treatment, rehabilitation and care or not.
  • To estimate the marked decrease or increase in the rate of spreading disease.

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