Awareness of Leprosy in an urban slum of Western Maharashtra Post 35 Years of the National Leprosy Eradication Program (NLEP).
Background: Even after 35 years of the National Leprosy Eradication Program (NLEP) and 15 years post-elimination, leprosy continues to be a public health challenge in India. This paper discusses the current awareness of leprosy among people living in urban slums of western Maharashtra.
Methods: The study was conducted in an urban slum of western Maharashtra with 400 participants. A closed-ended questionnaire regarding the knowledge, attitude, practices, and stigma existing among the people was administered, followed by a small awareness talk and screening for leprosy.
Results: Of the total 400 participants, 205 (51.25) were females and 195 (48.75) were males. Only 154/400 (38.5%) people were aware of leprosy. 130/400 (32.5%) people thought that it is treatable; however, 71/130 (54.6) of them thought that it would recur even after completing the treatment. Only 103/400 (25.75) said that they would marry a person with leprosy, denoting prevalent stigma in the society, and 79/400 (19.75) were aware of government services for leprosy and NLEP. Screening of all the participants surveyed did not reveal any new or doubtful cases of leprosy.
Conclusion: The present study shows a lack of awareness and knowledge of leprosy among the target population. With only 20% of them being aware of government services and the NLEP, combined with an extremely low knowledge about the disease; it shows the need to further augment the government programs. There is also an increasing need to educate people to accomplish a positive attitude of the community towards leprosy patients.