Silatham Sermrittirong and Gomes Unarat Raj Pracha Samasai Institute, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand
Not just in Thailand but generally speaking, leprosy is overshadowed by high-prevalence diseases such as HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis. Health officials and decision-makers do not pay it much attention, with the result that in most developing countries there are cases of misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis and neglect of leprosy-related disability.
It is not the fault of persons affected by leprosy that they have contracted a low-prevalence, stigmatizing disease! They have an equal right to the quality health care that those affected by high-prevalence diseases are able to access. I would like see more efforts made to ensure that they can. (SS)
There is now a very low prevalence of leprosy in Thailand and we are trying to integrate leprosy colonies into the general community. It is a very big challenge to promote social inclusion, to make people affected by leprosy feel they are the equal of those outside the colonies, and to decrease stigma toward them. We have developed a model for integration; I hope it will succeed and be of interest to other countries facing similar challenges. (GU)
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