AT the opening ceremonies of the recent 20th International Leprosy Congress Health Secretary Francisco Duque III declared that the health sector’s dream of a world without leprosy is making headway as the target year 2020 nears.
The International Leprosy Congress has been conducted every 3-5 years for over 100 years, beginning with a meeting in Berlin in 1897.
Organized by the International Leprosy Association since its establishment in 1931, these meetings have consistently brought together leading experts in leprosy work, scientists and researchers in various aspects of the disease, persons affected by leprosy, advocacy groups, charitable organizations which support leprosy work, and representatives of Ministries of Health throughout the world.
“The ILC has been hard at work for many years, to realize our ultimate dream of a world without leprosy. Throughout the years, the course of the Department of Health’s response to leprosy has transformed from isolation, segregation and quarantine approaches, to inclusive client-centered, community-based approaches,” Duque said.
Innovations and breakthroughs in multi-drug therapy and new technologies have paved the way to an enriched quality of life for persons afflicted with leprosy.
“Our success is a story of dignity and triumph of the human spirit, and today, we look back at these past successes to remind us of what we are all here for -- to care for and celebrate humanity,” the health chief said.
Duque recalled the humble beginnings of the DoH that can be traced back to the establishment of San Lazaro Hospital dedicated to the care for people afflicted with leprosy back in 1578.
The DoH has now come full circle, as the institutionalization of this people-centered care has paved the way for a system whose desired ending is what is now called Universal Health Care.
The vision for Universal Health Care is tied with the aspirations of the 2016 to 2020 Global Strategy for Leprosy and Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
These are: zero stigma, wherein people affected with leprosy participate and contribute in the daily economic activities of their community; zero disability, wherein cases are recognized, referred, and treated early to prevent the onset of complications brought about by the disease; zero transmission, wherein after prompt initiation of treatment of identified cases, contact tracing is pursued; and, zero disease, wherein all those identified to have potential risk of exposure to leprosy are given preventative treatment and observed continuously.
This year’s Congress emphasizes the need for a global partnership to create a world without leprosy. The government’s successes may be defined by the relationships that were made, and continue to make, the partnerships that bore fruits of innovation, and the resilience of the entire community.
“Our long history of leprosy care is proof that if we are to achieve these goals, we must work together,” Duque concluded. Lee Ann P. Ducusin