Guyana achieves over 95% cure rate for leprosy - health ministry
Stabroek News
February 4, 2007

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Guyana has achieved over 95% in its cure rate for leprosy, utilizing multi-drug therapy against the disease since 1981, but about five persons relapse every year and must be aggressively monitored and treated.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has proposed a programme similar to the DOTS TB strategy programme and has pledged to completely cure everyone in Guyana diagnosed with Hansen's Disease, more commonly known as leprosy.

An MOH press release stated that in commemorating the 54th anniversary of World Leprosy Day on January 27, Guyana, as customary, extended the day's activities to a whole week in order to focus attention on the plight of those who live with the disease. The day was celebrated worldwide under the theme 'Give Hope'.

The release noted that since 2001, the number of new cases countrywide has averaged about 25 per year and there are about 246 persons in the treatment programme for the past decade and follow-up on the affected persons will be done throughout this year.

Leprosy is one of the thirteen diseases around the world that is classified as a "neglected disease" and it is also identified as a disease that could be eliminated. Guyana has since joined several countries in declaring that the disease would be eliminated by 2015.

According to the Ministry of Health, the focus is to identify all cases and treat them now and if this is done the disease can be eliminated here as a public health challenge.

The release noted that services are maintained at the Mahaica Leprosarium, though patients are no longer banished there as in the old days when the disease was thought to be incurable. Today the disease is treated as an out-patient service.

At the 14 out-patient clinics that operate in Guyana, including clinics in Wismar, Mackenzie, Skeldon, Port Mourant, New Amsterdam, Clonbrook, Grove, Lodge, David Rose, Parika, DeKendren and Vreed-en-Hoop, besides a clinic held every Wednesday at the Palms compound, all testing and drugs are free.

The release acknowledged the support which the programme received from the Netherlands Leprosy Association, PAHO/WHO and CAREC and expressed deepest gratitude to Dr Holly Alexander and her staff "for the diligent work they have sustained over the years, especially in an environment where their work is overshadowed by all the attention being given to other diseases." Special appreciation was also extended to the staff of the Mahaica Leprosarium.