When program managers and partners endorsed the Enhanced Global Strategy for leprosy 2011-2015 in New Delhi recently, they fixed in place an important next step on the journey to eradicate this age-old disease. The basic principles remain early detection, proper diagnosis, and prompt treatment with MDT, combined with quality patient care available to all who need it on an equitable basis. But for these principles to be uniformly applied, there must be effective and efficient leprosy control activities in all endemic countries. Also essential are awareness campaigns that educate people about the disease and its treatment, and that counter erroneous beliefs that give rise to stigma and discrimination.
Past strategies have brought success, yet success breeds complacency. As the disease burden declines, much work must be done to reaffirm national and local commitment to tackling leprosy in the face of many other competing demands. Now more than ever, strong partnerships and the prioritizing of resources will be important to ensure that the goals of the enhanced strategy are achieved.
Beyond these goals lies the ultimate vision of a world without leprosy. Based on current knowledge of the disease, the scientific consensus is that complete eradication of leprosy is not feasible. Yet that seems no reason to question, as one delegate did in New Delhi, the inclusion of this vision in the enhanced strategy. As another delegate gently chided, nowhere is it written that we'll never find the answers.