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Health Surveillance and Disease Management / Communicable Diseases / Leprosy (Hansená Disease)

Minister of Health Agenor Álvares Receives WHO Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination in Brazil

Brasilia, 12 June 2006: At 4:30 this afternoon, Minister of Health Agenor Álvares received in his cabinet a visit from the Honorary Ambassador of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Elimination of Leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa. The Minister cordially greeted the Ambassador, in the company of, among others, Mr. Arthur Custódio, National Coordinator of the Movement to Reintegrate People Affected by Hansen's Disease (MORHAN), National Under Secretary of Health Surveillance Dr. Fabiano Pimenta, Alderman Santiago Alcázar, by Chief of the International Advisory Services of the Ministry of Health, by Director of Epidemiological Surveillance, Dr. Expedito Luna, and General Coordinator of the National Program for Elimination of Hansen's Disease, Dr. Rosa Castália Ribeiro Soares, who recently received an award at the 12th International Congress of Infectious Diseases held in Lisbon for her research in applied epidemiology and communicable diseases. Today's encounter was part of Sasakawa's extensive agenda with the political and technical leaders in endemic countries to keep the elimination leprosy as a public-health problem on the priority list in the countries' political agenda.

Recently, the ambassador led the Global Appeal to End the Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy, launched last January 29 in New Delhi, India. The appeal has been endorsed and signed by such leaders as Jimmy Carter, Vaclav Ravel, the Dalai Lama, and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation (SMHF) was founded in 1947 by Ryoichi Sasakawa, president of the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, to work toward the goal of leprosy, following the eradication of smallpox. The SMHF is affiliated to the Nippon Foundation, also founded by Sasakawa in 1962, and since 1975 has included the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP).

The main objective of SMHF is the elimination of Hansen's disease as public-health problem, as well as eliminating the stigma surrounding patients and their families. The foundation, together with WHO and ILEP, has collaborated with leprosy-elimination programs in endemic countries, thus strengthening their projects. Today, the SMHF concentrates on supporting field work in the ten main endemic countries, which require support to ensure the success of the efforts they are making.

Commitment: In Brazil, the SMHF has provides support to the Ministry of Health, through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) since 1996, financing activities in the area of leprosy elimination monitoring and technical assistance, along with political and social mobilization. The idea is to obtain a commitment from authorities as well as from society to eliminate the disease and the stigma it carries.

Activities aimed at feasibility are underway to include this subject of the United Nations (UN) human-rights agenda. In February 2005, Sasakawa participated, in Rio de Janeiro, in a seminar held in Rio de Janeiro on Hansen's disease and Human Rights, supported by the Ministry of Health, MORHAN, and the Sasakawa Foundation.

Brazil has made a commitment to eliminate Hansen's disease as a public-health problem by 2010, with positive results. This commitment was reaffirmed during the Global Forum on Leprosy Elimination held in Aberdeen, Scotland, just weeks before the 59th World Health Assembly in Geneva last May. To achieve its goal, Brazil has developed a series of initiatives to promote access to free diagnosis and treatment and to reduce the stigma. This will facilitate early detection of Hansen's disease, thus lessening its chances of developing into more serious forms of the disease.

Ministry of Health, Brazil   |   PAHO Leprosy Page   |   WHO, Leprosy Page  |
Elimination of Leprosy as a Public Health Problem   |
Article: Rinaldo, A. The Global Campaign to Eliminate Leprosy, PLoS Med. 2005 December; 2 (12): e341.

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