Guyana observes World Leprosy Day

DPI, GUYANA, Sunday, January 28, 2018

Guyana united with the rest of the world to commemorate the 65th observance of World Leprosy Day, under the theme, “Zero Disability among children affected by Leprosy”.

Minister within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Karen Cummings.

Delivering the feature address at the observance hosted at the Palms Geriatric Home, Minister within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Karen Cummings said her ministry will ensure there is a robust integration of leprosy control activities into basic health care services through a revitalised primary health care system.

“We must broaden activities that include access to information and ways of prevention. We have to foster the social and occupational reintegration of those who have been cured of the disease and who despite the fact that they carry the marks of this disease on their bodies.”

The Minister noted that leprosy continues to be a disease of public health importance, hence the need for heightened public awareness. This includes the ministry continuing to provide the opportunity for capacity building and institute mechanisms for a renewed focus on preventing disability and the promotion of socio-economic rehabilitation.

According to Minister Cummings, the ministry aims to encourage early detection, diagnosis and treatment and sensitise children in an effort to mobilise support for the control and elimination of leprosy by 2020. To this end, the ministry has scheduled a series of activities starting with health-talk visits to selected primary and secondary schools in Region Two and Three, as well as essay and poster competitions. There will also be a health walk on February 10 and Awareness booth hosted at the Giftland Mall on February 17 and 18.

Dr. Jean Alexandre, Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) representative.

Also addressing the gathering, Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) representative, Dr. Jean Alexandre, stressed that a multi-sectoral approach is needed in order to reach out to targetted communities. Dr. Alexandre added that leprosy is curable; hence there is a need to reduce discrimination. He pointed out that the prejudice shown to affected persons often serves as a deterrent to them receiving treatment.

In 2016, Guyana diagnosed 52 new cases, with Region Two being deemed the most affected area and 54 new cases last year. In 2016, several trainees were coached on how to handle leprosy cases, the Ministry also conducted visits to Regions One (Barima-Waini), Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), to follow-up on the competency of the doctors and medical assistants working with the National Leprosy Control Programme.

A multidrug therapy (MDT) based on the combination of the antibiotics dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine was introduced in 1982. Since its introduction, some 13 to 14 million persons have been cured with MDT. Elimination was defined as a reduction in the prevalence of patients with leprosy receiving antimicrobial therapy at a given time to less than 1 per 10,000 population.

The WHO in 2016 launched its ‘Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020’ which is centred on three main pillars – (i) strengthen government ownership and partnerships; (ii) stop leprosy and its complications; and (iii) stop discrimination and promote inclusion. The objective is to have zero children with leprosy-affected disabilities, fewer new patients diagnosed with leprosy-related deformities and a repeal of all laws that allow discrimination of leprosy patients


By: Neola Damon


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