Stressing the need for combating leprosy, President Pranab Mukherjee has called for integrated leprosy services in geographically focused areas to eradicate the disease.
He was speaking at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan where he presented the International Gandhi Award for 2013 to Vijaykumar Vinayak Dongre and Guocheng Zhang from China for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy.
He pointed to certain areas where the prevalence of leprosy was much more, given their economic and social backwardness.
The president said the need of the hour is to intensify efforts towards early detection of leprosy cases, provide equitable access to appropriate treatment and integrated leprosy services in geographically focused areas.
The award was instituted by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's service and scientific approach towards leprosy.
Over the years, leprosy has remained a blot on humanity. More than the medical condition, the social stigma attached to the disease is a cause for concern, the president said.
Mukherjee said there is a need to empower those who have been socially discriminated on account of leprosy, through advocacy and information dissemination.
He said the United Nations has now passed a resolution on discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
He added efforts are being made to repeal laws that prevent people affected by leprosy from participating in society.
This challenge can be met through a multi-dimensional and integrated approach. He urged all stakeholders to come together and make concerted efforts for total eradication of leprosy.