World Leprosy Day

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Every year, World Leprosy Day takes place on January 31 (in commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi's death) or its nearest Sunday. It is a day to increase awareness of leprosy and the importance of early detection. It aims to help those who are diagnosed with leprosy and those who suffered human rights abuse from having the disease. Different countries celebrate this day with activities that disseminate information about leprosy and stories of those who are diagnosed and eventually got cured. It is also a day dedicated to establishing funds for the lepers who are in need of financial help.



World Leprosy Day was founded by 'Raoul Follereau, a French journalist and philosopher. In 1936, while covering the story of Father de Foucald for an Argentine newspaper, he met lepers. After witnessing the struggles of lepers he met in his trip, he started his journey of informing the world about leprosy and the challenges met by those stricken with it.


Leprosy (or Hansen's disease) is a curable disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It can be transmitted through droplets that are airborne, similar with that of tuberculosis. It is not hereditary and, once treatment starts, the affected individual can no longer be contagious to other people. The incubation period of this disease can take at least six months to forty years, hence, determining the source is difficult.

Available treatment

The treatment of leprosy is affordable and almost free on some countries. Multidrug therapy (MDT) is one of the available treatments for the disease. Early detection and treatment of leprosy can prevent deformities on the individual.

Society acceptance

With the availability of drugs to combat and cure leprosy, the main issue that seems to linger for quite a long time is societal acceptance. Until now, lepers and their family members are ostracized by their communities. This is one of the main reasons behind the World Leprosy Day. Awareness and immediate medical attention is the key to total elimination of leprosy.

In the Philippines

The Department of Health includes World Leprosy Day in its annual health calendar. Press briefings about leprosy and the leprosy program of the DOH and other affiliates of the government are made known. Lectures on the cause of leprosy and on how to deal with it are also held during the day. Although this is a one-day event, the department initiated Leprosy Prevention and Control Week observed every 3rd week of February. The Philippine Leprosy Mission helps spearhead the campaign which focuses on public awareness on skin health and seeking voluntary treatment from barangay health centers.