Hreeloita Dharma S, Resinta S, Jakarta – Indonesia ranked third in the world in the number of cases of leprosy in 2021, according to the Health Ministry.
"Leprosy is still a health problem in Indonesia. Our country is in the third position after India and Brazil and then followed by Congo and Mozambique," the ministry's director of prevention and control of infectious disease Imran Pambudi said at a media gathering in Jakarta on Monday.
Quoting World Health Organization (WHO) data in the 2022 Weekly Epidemiological Record, he informed that 10,976 leprosy cases were detected in Indonesia in 2021. The finding was much lower compared to India, which reported 75,394 cases, and Brazil, which registered 18,318 cases.
Based on the National Leprosy Situation Analysis for 2022, at least 11 districts and cities in Indonesia had not achieved leprosy elimination. In 2022, the number of registered cases of leprosy was 15,052 while the number of new cases was 12,095, Pambudi informed.
Citing the same data, he said it was regrettable that the proportion of new leprosy cases without defects in 2022 was still 82.87 percent, while the proportion of patients with grade two disabilities was 6.37 percent, and the proportion of new cases of leprosy in children was 9.89 percent.
"If you look at this number, especially the proportion of new cases in children, there is still transmission and there are a lot of infections in Indonesia. But if you look at the proportion of grade two disabilities, it means that it was found out too late and it required attention from all parties," he explained.
Pambudi further said that although the prevalence of leprosy in Indonesia in 2022 was 0.55, the ministry found a number of provinces where its prevalence was above the national average: West Papua, North Maluku, Papua, Maluku, North Sulawesi, Gorontalo, and West Sulawesi.
In order to overcome and eliminate leprosy in Indonesia, the ministry is encouraging case detection and early treatment.
He said that from 2020 to 2021, there was a downward trend in the number of cases detected due to COVID-19, which made people afraid to seek treatment at community health centers (puskesmas).
Starting in 2022 when the pandemic condition was improving, the government started to intensify early detection to understand the trend of leprosy cases in the country.
"This did not mean that the case (count) from 2020 to 2021 was decreasing. The case finding was decreasing and now, we are back to intensify early detection again," Pambudi remarked.
Another effort carried out by the Health Ministry to eliminate leprosy has been to provide the correct information in order to reduce stigma, discrimination, and hoaxes related to leprosy.
It is trying to ensure that mitigation efforts, which start from diagnosis, treatment, and treatment monitoring, are made as early as possible, including the provision of medical treatment for disabilities.
Lastly, the ministry will carry out leprosy prevention through chemoprophylaxis, or the provision of leprosy-prevention drugs to the public or people who have had close contact with leprosy patients.
"While for patients, they will be given treatment programs such as Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT). The medicine is not only one but a combination of several drugs," he informed.