Congratulations to The Leprosy Mission, which is celebrating its 140th anniversary and which marked the milestone with a global forum in Delhi on Healing, Inclusion, Dignity at the end of September. Kudos, too, for the stream of informative tweets that came out of the conference. They provided a fascinating insight into some of the key themes in leprosy today and were a mix of hard facts, home truths and hopes for the future
We were told that the current trend in new case detection in leprosy is static and there is a need to implement new approaches. Early detection is crucial and contact examination has an important role to play. Defeating leprosy is possible, but will depend on a major new commitment from all partners. Collaborating with other neglected tropical diseases is part of the strategy.
Traditional healers — the first port of call for health treatment for thousands — should receive training in leprosy. Traditional birth attendants might be a way to reach women with leprosy messages. Women affected by leprosy are doubly disadvantaged.
Healing is not just physical; to be fully restored requires tackling emotional issues too. Dignity and rights are only possible through empowerment. One educated person affected by leprosy can do much to change the lives of others affected by the disease.
There was this rallying cry, too: It’s time for people affected to come out, tell the world they have had the disease and de-stigmatize leprosy. Given prevailing social stigma, that takes courage. But, as various tweets from Delhi showed, there were inspirational speakers at the forum who are doing just that.