CURE FOR LEPROSY

Although leprosy had existed for thousands of years, no cure had been found. Fortunately in 1873, a Norwegian scientist, Dr. G. A. Hansen found out the cause of the disease.Then it took another 70 years to develop a cure in a drug. Breakthrough treatment for leprosy was discovered in the 1940s.

MULTI DRUG TERAPHY (MDT)

Finally, MDT was then introduced and currently is the standard treatment. The treatment by MDT is currently working well, and more patients are cured.

CURED PATIENTS

The cured patients are those who had completed the MDT in the prescribed time and are generally free from leprosy.

DEFAULTERS

However, defaulters are those who are unable and to complete the full course of the MDT, and hence they are not cured of leprosy.

The skin clinic have great difficulty in ensuring that those leprosy patients on MDT go for regular follow up treatment.

This is because most of these leprosy patients are poor and live in remote areas, they go for treatment once or twice and then disappear into deep jungle such as Orang Asli.

CAUSES OF LEPROSY PATIENTS DEFAULTING

Defaulters do not do it on purpose. It is simply a question of logistics, finance, transport, living in inaccessible places. They are poor, illiterate and unable to go to the skin clinics without help.

SABAH AND SARAWAK

In Sabah and Sarawak, skin clinic staff accompanied by MaLRA volunteers, travel to pre selected places deep into the interior and provide medical treatment and in the process locate new cases of leprosy.
PENINSULAR MALAYSIA

In some States in Peninsular Malaysia, MaLRA volunteers travel with the skin clinic staff and provide financial assistance to leprosy patients.

FINANCIAL RELIEF PROVIDED BY MaLRA

One major incentive for leprosy sufferers is the financial relief of RM150 per month that MaLRA gives to every leprosy patient. Leprosy patients travel great distances just to collect the RM150 which is a big amount to them. In the process, they are also medically treated by the mobile skin clinic.

MEDICAL ATTENTION PROVIDED BY MOBILE SKIN CLINICS

(a) Government medical skin clinic staff are dedicated, and the mobile skin clinic staff travel to remote areas for days under difficult conditions to locate the leprosy patients.

(b) Almost invariably, MaLRA volunteers join up with the skin clinic and they proceed as a team to the pre-designated areas.

(c) For the leprosy patients, there is also the incentive for them to go for treatment by the mobile skin clinics.

(d) The incentive is that MaLRA volunteers are also with the mobile skin clinic and they provide the monthly relief allowance of RM150 per month to each patients.

(e) Although this appears to be in order, the mobile skin clinic and MaLRA faced logistics problems. MaLRA volunteers depend upon the mobile skin clinic for transport but the mobile skin clinic have their limitation too.

(f) Skin clinic medical staff have great distances to travel. Travel is only possible by 4wheel drive. Only limited resources are available for the skin clinic in manpower and materials.

Therefore they are not in a position to visit leprosy patients in remote places.

(g) The patients whenever possible get the mobile drug therapy (MDT) once or twice, and then patients disappear into the jungle, because there is no systematic and concerted drive to trace these patients by :

(i) Medical Skin Clinics
(ii) Social Welfare Departments

(h) In the final analysis, it is not only
the leprosy patients who suffer, but Malaysia also suffers, as it will take a very long time for Malaysia to be free of the disease of leprosy.

NEW CASES ARE DETECTED BY

a. Government mobile clinics on their routine visits detect patients with leprosy.

b. Sabah Medical Dept Rapid Population Survey (RSP) detects cases of leprosy. (Total of 82 new leprosy cases detected in Sabah in 2005)

c. Patients turn up at Government Hospital with skin problems and cases of leprosy are also detected.

d. Leprosy patients (the majority belong to the hard core poor) on MDT programme cannot be expected to regularly go to the skin clinic on their own. These patients simply cannot afford this.

e. There is no choice, except for the Skin Clinic, MaLRA, and the Social Welfare Department to go to the patients.

MaLRA’s RECORDS OF LEPROSY PATIENTS

List of leprosy patients and ex leprosy patients as per MaLRA’s records, are given in Appendix A.

On a rough count, there are approximately 558 leprosy patients and 1485 ex patients.

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