Philippine Leprosy Mission Book Projects

8:20:00 PM

I was invited by the Philippine Leprosy Mission during the book launch of "The History of the Philippine Leprosy Mission authored by Mrs. Soledad Grino and leprosy story project for children “John’s Brave Adventure” by Phi Lambda Delta Sorority last May 28, 2016 at Roofdeck Function Room, NewGrange Building, Timog Avenue, Quezon City.

Dr. Belen Dofitas introducing PLM's book projects

 Dr. Belen Dofitas introduced the book projects and shared their Leprosy advocacy. Dr. Belen shared to us that the greatest problem of leprosy is the stigma. Even though leprosy is no longer a disease it used to be centuries ago, there is still stigma. It is actually a very curable disease today. Dr. Belen stressed that leprosy patients should be respected and treated as persons. It is not right to discriminate persons with leprosy.

Phi Lambda Delta Sorority also gave us a preview of their book project entitled "John's Brave Adventure". The story was inspired by one of the patients of Dr. Belen. The story revolved around a prince who was affected by leprosy. This children's book will be distributed to children affected with leprosy in leprosy-endemic areas in the Philippines such as Ilocos Sur. There are still new cases of leprosy coming out in this province. The organization also intend to donate this book to public schools to increase the level of awareness of  teachers, students and their parents about leprosy. If you want to help out in this advocacy, you can reach the Philippine Leprosy Mission through their Facebook account.

Book Cover of Phi Lambda Delta's John's Brave Adventure

After hearing part of the story, students from Girls Scout of the Philippines shared what they learned from the story. Some of them shared that one should never be afraid of the disease, nothing should be ashamed about having the diseases and it is never right to tease a person living with a disease such as leprosy.

Philippine Leprosy Mission shared how things are changing nowadays for leprosy and people affected with leprosy. Culion, which is an island in Palawan, used to be a leprosarium. It was called Island of the Living Dead or Island of No Return. It used to be a containment area for people affected with leprosy during the time when the disease was still incurable. But this is no longer the situation today, leprosy is curable. And Culion is no longer being feared off. As a matter of fact, it is now one of the tourist spots in Palawan and there are people who bought resorts in Culion, Palawan.

Although the battle against the sequelae of the disease is almost over, there's a long battle against the stigma of leprosy. Even though medicines for leprosy are available for free in health centers, people are afraid to avail or get tested for leprosy because they are afraid of discrimination from the people around them. Philippine Leprosy Mission share that there are patients who will opt to go to Manila and get tested there because people in Manila do not know them. Stigma is still present. PLM also reminded us that it is no longer correct to use the term leper, we call them patients affected with leprosy.

Dr. Belen Dofitas also shared to us their advocacy which is "Partners in Leprosy Action". It is an innovative strategy developed by PLM to address the need for sustained detection and treatment of skin diseases including leprosy through private-public partnerships in leprosy-endemic areas of the country. Through this project, PLM was able to screen over 699,669 people for skin diseases and leprosy and was able to detect 200 new cases of leprosy in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte from 2013 to 2016. The World Health Organization recognized this project as one of the top social innovations in health initiative. PLM was invited to be part of the consultative meeting in Geneva and their project will be published as case report by WHO this year.

The shirt that I bought from the Hansen's Club

Members of the Hansen's Club which is a support group for people affected with leprosy also shared their experience, struggles and victories against Leprosy. They share how Philippine Leprosy Mission and Hansen's Club helped them in coping with the disease. They have a chapter in Philippine General Hospital and East Avenue Medical Center. They have a fund raising project now. They are selling shirts that encourage people to help stop stigma from leprosy. If you want to support their fundraising project, you can buy shirts from them.

Let us join the Philippine Leprosy Mission in the battle against leprosy and its stigma. If you know someone affected with this disease, please encourage them to reach out to Philippine Leprosy Mission or the Hansen's Club.

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