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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Beijing Readies for ILC 2016

ILA president says scientific output vindicates reduced interval between congresses.


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As the 19th International Leprosy Congress in Beijing draws closer, the president of the International Leprosy Association (ILA) says the decision to hold the September 18-21 congress only three years after the last congress in Brussels in 2013 was the right one.

“In Brussels, many members of the ILA Council suggested shortening the interval between congresses from five to three years. Now I definitely feel it was a very wise decision,” says Dr. Marcos Virmond. “Technology is advancing fast and we are getting results from some studies in a very rapid way.”

The organizers have received more than 700 submissions for Beijing, of which they have selected a little over 400 papers for presentation. “That means there is a lot of scientific production every year. People want to have more space to discuss results that are coming out quickly and moving in some new directions,” he says.

Among the key topics will be a vaccine for leprosy and the role of chemoprophylaxis. “A vaccine is a welcome topic but it is still something difficult to achieve, not only from a technological point of view, but also because of the need for many and large-scale clinical trials for safety and efficacy,” says Dr. Virmond.

“As for chemoprophylaxis, I think this will be a very important item for leprosy control from now on. I don’t see anything new in the near future other than chemoprophylaxis. Is it good? Is it the solution? Is it feasible? What are the ethical issues involved? These are definitely issues to be discussed, and the congress is exactly the place to discuss them.”

The theme of ILC 2016 is Unfinished Business: Stopping Transmission, Preventing Disability, Promoting Inclusion. Dr. Virmond is confident delegates won’t be disappointed by what Beijing has to offer them.

“The local organizing committee are quite excited and are doing a very nice job. I am sure we are going to have a very good congress.”

CHURCH APOLOGY

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Twenty years after the abolition of Japan’s Leprosy Prevention Law, the Synod of the Anglican Church in Japan has apologized for its part in the isolation and inhumane treatment of leprosy patients. Prior to the law’s repeal, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) chose not to support sanatoria patients in their efforts to regain their human rights, believing it was not appropriate for a religious organization to become involved in what it saw as a political campaign. It said it should have drawn inspiration from the example of two Anglican missionaries who devoted themselves to the welfare of leprosy patients in the past: Hannah Riddell, who built a hospital in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Mary Helena Cornwall Legh (pictured), who started the St. Barnabas Mission in Gunma Prefecture.