Disease Prevention and Control / Communicable Diseases / Leprosy
President Lula wants to eliminate leprosy from Brazil by 2005.
In the presence of hundreds of cured Hanseniasis (leprosy) patients from the city of Cruzeiro do Sul in Acre, President Lula—accompanied by First Lady Marisa Letícia da Silva, federal Ministers, Senator Tião Viana, Governor Jorge Viana, the Mayor of Cruzeiro do Sul, and dozens of representatives, mayors, volunteers from MORHAN (Reintegration Movement for People Affected by Hanseniasis), and spectators—launched the National Plan to Eliminate Leprosy, aimed at eliminating the disease from the country in two years' time.
In order for leprosy to be considered eliminated at the country level, the disease index has to be reduced to less than 1 case per every 10,000 inhabitants. Brazil currently has an index of 4 per 10,000. The agreement to eliminate leprosy (Hansen's disease) by 2005 was signed by the Member Countries of World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999. The principal axis of the Plan of Brazil is to identify new cases and facilitate access to treatment for all patients. Treatment is free of charge under the country's Unified Health System (Sistema Único da Saúde / SUS).
On this occasion, the Minister of Health, Humberto Costa, announced the formation of a special commission to promote national rehabilitation policies for people affected by Hansen's disease. "The idea to make possible such benefits as rehabilitation by plastic surgery and funds to train physicians, nurses, and physical therapists who carry out these procedures on people with physical disabilities", affirmed Costa.
The Minister strengthened the need to further integrate diagnosis and treatment procedures to they involve all the modules of the Family Health Programs as well as basic health procedures.
There will also be a restructuring of the residential treatment facilities (the so-called 'hospital-colonies'), seen in the photographs of the Cruzeiro do Sul facility. The Ministry of the Health proposes providing a more adequate structure to care for people with Hansen's disease.
In a further step to complement the measures to benefit those affected by Hansen's disease, the Ministry of the Health launched its 'Protocol of Intentions', in the which the signatories—states and cities, through the National Councils of State and Municipal Health Departments—join in their commitment to carry out the necessary activities to control Hansen's disease as proposed in the plan, with emphasis on expanding free diagnostic and treatment services as an integral part of basic health services in at least 213 cities.
On this occasion, the Ministry of Health—as part of the federal policy agenda to eliminate the disease by 2005—held a meeting of state coordinators from northern Brazil (the region with the highest incidence of Hansen's) in Rio Branco to develop a plan of each of the northern states. This meeting was officially opened by the Director of Epidemiological Monitoring of the Department of Health Surveillance, Dr. Expedito Luna; in it participated representatives from the Departments of Pharmaceutical Assistance and Basic Care of the Ministry of the Health, State Coordinators of Hansen's Disease and Basic Care Programs from the northern states, and representatives from priority cities. Under the coordination of Dr. Rosa Castália Soares, Technical Coordinator of Sanitary Dermatology, the participants prepared municipal and state implementation proposals for ongoing activities within the framework of the National Plan to Eliminate Hansen's disease by 2005. Their presence added prestige to the event, along with that of Dr. Luiz Odorico Andrade, President of the National Council of Municipal Health Secretaries (CONASEMS); actress Solange Couto, MORHAN volunteer, along with the President of MORHAN, Mr. Arthur Custódio de Sousa. Dr. Vera Andrade represented the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), presenting the current status of the disease in the world and the strategies to eliminate it. In the official celebration, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Secretary of Health Monitoring, Ministry of Health, reaffirmed "our goal to carry out our commitment to eliminate the disease as a public-health problem. To this end, the Ministry of Health the State and Municipal Departments of Health will spare no efforts to lower the prevalence of Hansen's Disease to less than one case for every 10,000 inhabitants by 2005."