For more than 60 years, on the last Sunday of January, thousands of people across the globe have celebrated World Leprosy Day and remembered those who suffer from leprosy.
Every two minutes, someone around the world is diagnosed with leprosy, a neglected tropical disease (NTD). Leprosy is curable, but late diagnosis can lead to lifelong disabilities.
Global annual leprosy statistics provided by the World Health Organization show that the number of new cases reported has stagnated at around 200,000 per year.
The 2013 Bangkok Declaration, endorsed by 17 Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, called for innovative approaches to reduce the incidence of leprosy globally.
The AIM Initiative provides just such an innovative approach to leprosy elimination.
1. The AIM Initiative shows where the need is by mapping case data to the village level. The map presents a visual of the incidences of disability and disease. Never before has the occurrence of grade 2 disability been mapped throughout a country and with this level of detail. The maps can then be used to plan targeted interventions.
2. The AIM Initiative’s integrated approach includes not just leprosy but all disability-causing NTDs. As the level of expertise and interest in leprosy has decreased, integration of interventions with other NTDs is crucial. AIM’s approach provides Ministries of Health with critical new tools that can impact the incidence and burden of NTDs and helps raise the profile of leprosy to make sure people affected by leprosy are not left behind.
3. The AIM approach helps target limited resources to where they are most needed, leveraging resources, expertise and political interest. Maps and integrated, strategic plans help the Ministry of Health better allocate resources and interventions to find cases, reduce ongoing transmission and provide care for people affected by NTDs.
By partnering with Ministries of Health to map leprosy and other NTDs and develop and implement integrated, strategic plans for case management, the AIM Initiative helps improve disease control, increase access to care and build sustainable health systems. This innovative approach is helping to speed the elimination of the ancient scourge of leprosy.