We found a number of lepers after we started conducting door-to-door visits."
Ternate (ANTARA News) - There has been a marked increase in the number of people lately diagnosed with leprosy in Ternate, North Maluku, according to a local health official.

"We have come across many new lepers who have actually been suffering from the disease since a long time," Ternate Health Service Head Nurbaity Radjabesi stated here on Wednesday.

She noted that there were several lepers who had suffered from the disease for about 10 years but were found only recently.

The new cases were traced after the field officials of the health service office visited the victims.

"We found a number of lepers after we started conducting door-to-door visits," Nurbaity added.

In order to minimize the spread of the disease, the Ternate Health Office has started providing medication during the door-to-door visits.

"We directly provide free medication to the lepers," she claimed.

In the meantime, Chief Minister for Peoples Welfare Agung Laksono remarked last month that leprosy and poverty were interrelated to each other.

"Many leprosy-affected people face discrimination and are forced to quit their jobs, thus making them financially dependent on others," the minister noted here on Monday, during a function organized for a global call to stop the stigma faced by leprosy sufferers.

Leprosy patients suffer from the daily ordeal of discrimination and negative self-image, and those who have been cured are forced to give up their jobs, the minister pointed out.

The community still considers leprosy a communicable and incurable cursed disease, he explained.

"In fact, leprosy is curable and medicines can even be obtained free of charge," the coordinating minister for peoples affairs remarked.

Therefore, leprosy is not merely a physical disease, but also psycho-social in nature, which is related to poverty.

"So, we have to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with former leprosy sufferers, so that they can return to work and become financially independent," Laksono added.

In 2012, the number of leprosy patients in Indonesia reached 18,994. Indonesia has the third-largest number of leprosy cases in the world.

He stated that although leprosy was contagious, its communicability was lower than that of other communicable diseases.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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