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Shun negative attitudes towards leprosy patients: PM

Published on: 8:30 pm - Wednesday | December 11, 2019

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday urged everyone to shun negative attitudes and stop isolating leprosy patients and instead take initiatives for their proper treatment–reports UNB.

“We’ve to discard the mentality that if anyone is affected by leprosy, the person should be sacked or isolated from society,” she said while inaugurating the National Conference 2019 on Zero Leprosy Initiative by 2030 at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the city.

If anyone is affected by leprosy, she said, the employer should ensure treatment instead of sacking the patient. Sheikh Hasina said leprosy patients need to be seen through sympathetic and humanitarian eyes.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae that mainly affects skin, peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, according to WHO.

There were 208 619 new leprosy cases registered globally in 2018, according to official figures from 159 countries from the six WHO Regions. Leprosy is curable and early treatment averts most disabilities.

According to WHO statistics, 3,000 to 4,000 new leprosy cases were detected every year from 2011-2017 in Bangladesh, while the disabilities among the detected cases are 7-11 percent.

Hasina said leprosy patients would get cured to a large extent if all sections of society shoulder responsibility to ensure their rights to coexist in society. She urged local pharmaceutical companies to produce medicines for the disease.

“Our many pharmaceutical companies are exporting their products to various countries. Our medicines are very good quality. I’d like to tell them that if they produce special medicines needed for leprosy patients and take measures to distribute them for free, we’ll reach our target (Zero Leprosy) very quickly,” she said.

The Prime Minister said if the leprosy can be diagnosed at early stage and measures can be taken accordingly, the disease can be cured.

Noting that once leprosy was considered as curse, she said it needs to conduct research to prevent the spread of leprosy. “We’ll have to take steps so that the leprosy can completely be removed from our country. So, I think, we need to conduct research extensively,” she said.

Mentioning that now research works are being conducted and leprosy medicines invented at the international level, she said, “We can do it in our country as well. If can do so, we’ll not require to depend on others.”

The Prime Minister said she believes that Bangladesh would reach the target of zero leprosy even before 2030.

In 2000, Awami League government initiated ‘Bandhabari Ashrayan Project’ for leprosy patients at Boali union in Kaliakair upazila of Gazipur district. Some 70 families were rehabilitated in the special housing project and many of leprosy patients have got cured.

In order to help people enjoy basic rights through eliminating social discrimination against leprosy, the government in 2011 enacted a new law repealing the age-old law “The 1898 Lepers Act” enacted by the British government, she said.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque presided over the inaugural session of the conference, while Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Health and Family Welfare Ministry Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and WHO goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa spoke on the occasion.

Health Services Division Secretary Md Ashadul Islam delivered the welcome speech.

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