Remember the way ‘lepers’ are mentioned in the Bible? After more than 20 centuries of human endeavor the disease and the stigma continue to mock at us.

In a Christmas communication Alert India, calls leprosy the lost sheep of public health. Here are some chilling facts.The delay in detecting new patients continues. Discrimination against people affected by leprosy persists. There is limited impact on its transmission. The much promised “universal elimination of leprosy” still eludes us.

Leprosy: Cases Go Undetected

Though India achieved the elimination target of a prevalence of less than one per 10,000 people, new cases continue to occur. The troublesome aspect is that they occur in unknown locations across the country and among them are the young and the children and are associated with deformities at the time of detection itself..

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Though given the large population size, India contributes to nearly 60% of the global incidence.


It is 60 districts in 8 states which contribute to the majority of cases. Actual estimated incidence could be 3 to 5 times more than reported Annual New Case Detection Rate. Even for cases that are detected, treatment completion rate is low.

Leprosy: Precautionary Advocacy

Precautionary advocacy is needed to remove the perception that leprosy does not exist.. What is needed is disease mapping and focused action.

Leprosy and its transmission and discrimination and social suffering must end. Governments must own up. Public health community must speak up.

Action is required for early case detection before visible disabilities occur. We need more effort at targeting detection among high risk groups through conducting campaigns in highly endemic areas or communities. Coverage of and access for marginalized populations must go up.

Augustine Veliath,
I blog at

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HIFA Profile: Augustine Veliath is a Health Communication Specialist and Independent Consultant in India. Professional interests: Child Survival, lAdvocacy, Environment Building, Behavior Change communication, Entertainment education.