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Indian National Leprosy Conference Overview

December 18, 2017

John Kurian George, ILEP in India Coordinator, and Pim Kuipers, Global Policy Advisor, ILEP, share their reflections of the National Leprosy Conference held earlier this month in Delhi.

When the country which accounts for well over half of the cases of leprosy globally has a conference with the goal of “accelerating towards leprosy free India through innovative approaches” it is significant.

When that conference has active participation from key leprosy stakeholders, from state and central government leprosy officials, from persons affected by leprosy and their associations, as well as CSOs, researchers, academics, ILEP partners, the WHO, other international country programme managers, and field level leprosy workers, it is encouraging.

When that conference shows a palpable commitment for action and change, it is exciting!

The Indian National Leprosy Conference was held in New Delhi from 5-7th December 2017. The tone of the conference was set at the first session, which was about people affected and in which the voice of persons affected was prominent. Internationally, key presentations from Mr Jan van Berkel, ILEP President and Mr Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador, provided a clear reminder of the urgency of the task towards a leprosy-free world and the work required.

The importance of a local community focus was a theme, with accounts of the important work of the Association of Persons affected by Leprosy (APAL), and the key role of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in combating leprosy and stigma. The conference included helpful overviews of management and coordination practices, as well as frank discussions about resource mobilisation and funding realities. It highlighted the potential for international collaboration and learning, as well as the importance of civil society and civil society organisations.

The conference featured very practical scientific presentations on topics such as mathematical modelling, post-exposure prophylaxis, measuring stigma, the role of dermatologists and the place of public health specialists in leprosy. The conference concluded with a renewed commitment to early detection and the Indian National Leprosy Elimination Programme. It emphasised the importance of mainstreaming, and the need to escalate the fight against stigma and discrimination. It also encouraged greater collaboration for optimal use of available resources for the elimination of leprosy.