During my stay in India, I was interviewed by various media, including the Times of India, PTI, IANS, the Statesman, New Ripples and VANDE (Video Audio Network for Development and Education) Gujarat.
I told them that while India's measures against leprosy were “the most advanced in the world,” the country has a huge population and I recognized that its efforts to reach some population groups are probably not yet sufficient.
In particular, I appealed for a leprosy eradication program to be included in the country's school curriculum to increase awareness about the disease.
While the rest of the world observes World Leprosy Day on the last Sunday in January, which fell on January 27 this year, India observes its Anti-Leprosy Day on January 30, the martyrdom day of Mahatma Gandhi.
According to WHO, India has the highest annual number of new cases of leprosy in the world, accounting for about 60% of 210,000 new cases registered globally in 2017.
Leprosy was for a long time treated as a special disease with diagnosis and treatment taking place at specialized hospitals and this contributed to discrimination.
In my media interviews I said that WHO has worked to reform this so that leprosy is integrated with other diseases and can be diagnosed and treated at general hospitals. From what I have seen during my travels around India, this is now happening and I look forward to seeing more integration.
On January 31, I flew from Delhi to Ahmedabad in the western coastal state of Gujarat. During my five-day stay in the city, I met with senior state government officials and representatives of the Association of People Affected by Leprosy (APAL) and others to get briefed on the state’s fight against leprosy and the stigma and discrimination it causes.
I also visited the Gandhi Kusta Seva Ashram leprosy colony, where I spoke with leaders of the community about their lives and was treated to a dance performance by their children.
Furthermore. I visited Sanand Taluka and Sanathan public health centers in the city, where I talked with and encouraged ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists). These are female community health workers who have been trained to recognize symptoms of leprosy. They hold the key to early diagnosis of the disease, which helps prevent disability and ensure a complete cure. Offering words of encouragement to ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) at the Sanand Taluka public health center in Ahmedabad, Gujarat State on February 1. With young residents of Mahatma Gandhi Kusta Seva Ashram leprosy colony in Ahmedabad on February 2.Interviewed on the state government channel VANDE (Video Audio Network for Development and Education) Gujarat in Ahmedabad on February 3.