In 2017-18, an estimated 126,000 people were detected with leprosy in India, home to 60% of the world’s new cases. Almost 50% of the new cases are multibacillary, and nearly 40% afflicted are women. At least 12,000 (8-9%) of the infected are children.
In 2005 the Indian government declared leprosy had been eliminated (which means 1 case detected per 10,000 population). This was achieved through an intensive SET program – Survey / Education / Treatment, conducted by leprosy paramedics across the country. Usha and I were trained as paramedics and remember very well visiting up to 50 homes a day in the slums of Nagpur in temperatures reaching 47 c in the summer.
After 2005 the government phased out SET and concentrated on the emerging AIDS epidemic. Since then leprosy has been on the increase.
Leprosy can be easily treated; the earlier the diagnosis the better to prevent permanent nerve damage resulting in deformity and disability. Unfortunately, in 2017-18 there was an 11% increase in cases presenting deformity, which indicates missed or late diagnosis. The best way to remedy this is to make sure that as many people as possible are informed of the early signs of the disease and that treatment can be obtained for free at most government PMC’s.
WIN has resumed SET in some of the communities the charity serves. We also host educational programs at local community centres, where women can access free medical check-ups and treatment where needed; this encourages more to attend. Indian women are the main carers in the family and more receptive to matters relating to the health and well being of the family.