"Stigma has been the greatest challenge associated with leprosy management. We need a change in attitude towards leprosy. It must be perceived like any other disease in order to completely wipe out the stigma associated with it," says Manjo A. Lamin, Multi-Drug TB Focal Point at the National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Control Programme.
Sierra Leone, last Sunday, January 28, joined other countries across the world to observe this year's World Leprosy Day on the theme; "Zero disability in girls and boys affected by leprosy."
The aim of the celebration was to change attitude and increase public awareness on the fact that leprosy can easily be prevented and cured. It was also aimed to focus on the needs of those affected by the disease around the world.
Leprosy is an infectious chronic disease that targets the nervous system, especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body.
According to the German Leprosy Relief Association, a total of 83 cases were recorded in 2017, compared to 133 in 2015 and 140 in 2016.
According to Lamin, while they remembered hundreds of compatriots afflicted by leprosy, human rights abuses against victims must be taken cognizance of.
He told a presser that even though many people regard leprosy as an ancient disease that was eradicated many years ago, hundreds of thousands of children, women and men contract the disease every year.
"The disease is curable with multi-drug therapy but children, men and women are still being crippled by this terrible disease. We in the ministry will continue to encourage support in the holistic fight against this terrible disease," he assured.
While disclosing that the prevalence rate of the disease still remains less than one percent, Lamin called on communities to act swiftly to halt new infections by improving education and sensitisation and strengthening surveillance at both community and facility level.
"The good news is that there is a cure for leprosy. Antibiotics are capable of annihilating the bacteria but people need to be encouraged to take the treatment as it can protect the coming generation from the threat of the highly infectious disease," he noted.