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Aymée Medeiros da Rocha

Coordinator ‘Stop the Transmission of Leprosy Project’ (AKA PEP++), Brazil

Work is taking place across the globe to place leprosy where it belongs – in the history books. 

It’s easy to think of leprosy as a disease of history but in fact it affects millions of people around the world. About 210,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with this disease every year.

A worldwide concern

Leprosy still prevails predominantly in countries in Asia, South America and Africa. For example India, Indonesia and Brazil account for around 80% of all leprosy diagnoses – making this curable disease a worldwide problem that needs a global approach towards elimination, says Aymée Medeiros da Rocha, who coordinates the Brazil ‘Stop the Transmission of Leprosy Project’ initiative of non-governmental organisation, NLR – until No Leprosy Remains (NLR).

People need to be heard and involved so they can become part of the solution.

For the past 50 years, NLR has positioned itself as a major change-maker in the fight against leprosy – a condition caused by slow-growing bacteria that mainly affect the nerves, skin, eyes and lining of the nose. Today, it focusses efforts in three main strategies:

  • Zero transmission: reduced incidence through early diagnosis and integrated preventive treatment strategies.
  • Zero disability: reduce physical impairments and improve mental wellbeing.
  • Zero exclusion: fighting stigma and lobbying for the full inclusion in society of persons affected by leprosy.

Tackling stigma

Lack of awareness and knowledge on leprosy that leads to stigma is a key reason why leprosy remains hidden, causing persons affected unnecessary hardship and social exclusion. Therefore, a key tenet of the organisations work is to empower persons affected by leprosy and work on capacity building at all levels. Two examples are knowledge platforms, infolep and infoNTD, that NLR developed together with partners. Increased knowledge contributes to patients being diagnosed and treated timely and to people living with the consequences of the disease being reached with mental and practical support to reduce disability and promote economic and societal activity.

Medeiros da Rocha says: “Leprosy and other NTDs are complex diseases and to find effective solutions, we need to think about more than targets. People need to be heard and involved so they can become part of the solution.”

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