Message for World Leprosy Day – WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination
On the occasion of World Leprosy Day 26 January 2020, I think of the harsh life that persons affected by leprosy have had to endure—abandoned by their families, isolated from society and deprived of their freedom.
Today, through the efforts of many people, leprosy is an easily curable disease. The drugs are distributed free of charge. Early detection and treatment help prevent disability.
But despite the progress of science and the fact that leprosy can be treated with drugs, just like other diseases, there are still people suffering from the unwarranted discrimination that exists toward leprosy.
Because of leprosy, there are people who have been separated from their families; who have been unable to continue at school; who have lost their jobs; and who have missed out on the chance of marriage. After they have been cured, they are labeled ‘ex-patients’ and continue to face discrimination.
We have not only to fight the disease, but also the prejudice and discrimination that have infected society.
New cases of leprosy are still being discovered in many countries and regions. But fearful of being diagnosed, people often do not go to a clinic or hospital because they think of leprosy as a shameful disease. This is one of the biggest obstacles to early diagnosis and treatment.
In order for leprosy patients to feel they can go to hospitals and clinics to receive treatment, just as they used to before they contracted leprosy, and for them to be able to lead full lives in society, all of us need to have a correct understanding of leprosy and compassion toward those with the disease.
This year, organizations representing persons affected by leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease, are issuing messages on World Leprosy Day. I hope you will listen.
Leprosy is not a disease of the past. It is an ongoing issue. On this World Leprosy Day, I would like to join together with as many people as possible in thinking what we can do to make a difference to the lives of persons affected by leprosy.
Let’s make today a new beginning. Let’s do our best together.