Dr. Francesca Gajete, NLCP's national program manager, said persons with leprosy (PWL) should seek help from health workers to avoid further complications that may lead to physical impairment or disabilities.
In a consultative meeting on tuberculosis and leprosy here Wednesday, Gajete cited that leprosy victims may lead normal lives and should be given equal rights as normal people have.
"PWLs are still afraid to come out and seek help because of the stigma or discrimination brought by their diseases from the society. Some victims are not aware that they already have the disease because of the lack of information and education about it," Gajete said.
She said the DOH is currently working to eradicate leprosy within the next five years and it is expecting much from local government units, particularly in allocating funds for medicines and case findings.
"We are urging local chief executives to include leprosy eradication campaigns in their list of priorities. We need to help the PWLs end their suffering and provide them with livelihood so they can move on with their lives normally," she said.
Gajete said one major factor that made leprosy a big problem in the country is the lack of leprosy eradication campaigns at the local level.
In South Cotabato, the provincial health office documented at least 27 PWL cases and they are now under treatment.
Leprosy is a chronic mild communicable disease caused by Mycobacterium Leprae, an acid fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, the eyes and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract.
Multi-drug treatment is the accepted standard treatment for leprosy and is proven to be safe and effective. It is a combination of two or more anti-leprosy drugs that render the patient non-infectious within one month after starting treatment.