President Ram Nath Kovind presented the International Gandhi Awards for Leprosy to Dr N.S. Dharmashaktu under the Indian nomination (individual) category and the Leprosy Mission Trust under the institutional category.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that in our fight against leprosy, we have achieved a lot over the years. We have successfully accomplished levels of leprosy elimination defined as less than one case per 10,000 population. Further, the stigma and prejudice against leprosy has reduced considerably, thanks to the constant work of scientists, researchers, organisations and community workers. However, we cannot let our guard down. New cases continue to occur and high-burden pockets of the disease do exist.
The President said that the major challenge in leprosy control activities lies in sustaining the same level of focus and commitment especially in low-resource settings where equity of access is an issue. We need to intensify our efforts towards early detection of leprosy cases, provide equitable access to appropriate treatment and provide integrated leprosy services in the geographically focused areas.
The President said that more than the medical condition, the social stigma attached to the disease persists and this is a cause for concern. We have to become aware and educated on this disease and its different dimensions, and spread that awareness among our communities. We need to empower those who have been discriminated on account of leprosy through advocacy and information dissemination.