In 2018, another 208,619 new cases of leprosy were detected globally. Is any progress being made in the fight to eliminate leprosy?
In short, yes. Even detecting those new cases is one step closer to conquering leprosy. However, the fact that more than 200,000 people were diagnosed with leprosy reveals we still have work to do.
As discussed in Gospel for Asia’s previous Special Report, Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep it Alive, the fight against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, has two main battlefronts. The first and most obvious is in the medical field: detecting and treating leprosy patients before they suffer permanent damage or transmit the disease to anyone else. The second battle line is equally important—and equally challenging: eliminating discrimination and stigma toward those affected by leprosy.
Global leprosy-elimination leaders are making exciting advances both medically and socially that are worth noting.
Medical Advances: Leprosy Prevention Is Key to Elimination
One of the great hindrances in eliminating leprosy is detecting and treating new cases before the infection spreads to others. Leprosy can take as long as 20 years to manifest physical signs of the infection and can spread to many vulnerable people during that incubation period. Additionally, because people with leprosy are frequently ostracized by society, many who suspect they have contracted leprosy will hide their condition, enabling transmission and going without the treatment that would save them from disfigurement.
Learn more about the GFA-supported leprosy ministry, or the Reaching Friends Ministry, helping remind people affected by leprosy that, despite the stigma of leprosy, they have dignity and are valued by God.
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