Together against leprosy: Achieving a world without the disease | World Leprosy Day 2023

Today is World Leprosy Day. The message this year “Act Now. End Leprosy” aims to raise awareness of leprosy, empower countries to end leprosy, and inspire real commitment.

This international day is an opportunity to celebrate people who have experienced leprosy, advocate for the rights of individuals, and call for an end to leprosy-related stigma and discrimination.

Leprosy explained

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a curable infectious bacterial disease caused by bacillus mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy has been around for thousands of years and is often associated with stigma and discrimination. 

Symptoms vary depending on the type of leprosy and the severity of the infection. The most common symptoms are skin lesions, numbness and loss of sensation in the limbs, muscle weakness, and nerve damage.

Leprosy is primarily spread through close and prolonged contact with an infected person. The incubation period for the disease can range from several months to several years. Without treatment, leprosy can cause long-term damage to the nerves, skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract.  

Facts and figures

In 2020 there were 127,558 new leprosy cases diagnosed globally, this includes 8,269 children under the age of 15Fortunately, with advances in the medical field leprosy is curable – between 1994 and 2014, 16 million people were cured. Although treatment has changed the management, and recovery, of leprosy, the stigma surrounding leprosy still exists. This often deters people from seeking medical attention and benefiting from early treatment, which can have a significant impact on recovery and minimise permanent nerve damage. 

The role of rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is an important aspect of care for individuals with leprosy. It aims to improve function and reduce disability caused by the disease. Rehabilitation for leprosy typically includes a combination of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and psychological support.

Physiotherapy can help improve muscle strength, joint mobility, and overall function. Exercises to improve range of movement, stretching to relieve muscle tightness and spasms, and massage to improve circulation and reduce pain and swelling are all examples of physiotherapy interventions. Occupational therapy can help people with leprosy get back to doing daily tasks and adjust to any changes in their bodies caused by the disease.

Psychological support is also an important part of rehabilitation for people with leprosy, as the disease can cause social isolation and stigmatisation. Counselling and support groups can help individuals cope with the emotional and social impact of the disease and improve their overall well-being.

Ways to get involved

Raise awareness in your community today. The key messages this year are:

  • Elimination is possible: We have the power and tools to stop transmission and defeat this disease.
  • Act now: We need the resources and commitment to end leprosy. Prioritise leprosy elimination.
  • Reach the unreached: Leprosy is preventable and treatable. Suffering from leprosy is needless.

They say knowledge is power – so read more about Leprosy and its common symptoms, and join people all around the world to change attitudes and empower and protect individuals who are often unheard and left without a voice! 

#WorldLeprosyDay #ActNow #EndLeprosy #EndHD