Our history dates back to 1925, when the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA) started leprosy work in India. LEPRA Society was established in Hyderabad in 1988, as a partner of LEPRA UK, to serve the needs of people affected by leprosy. Operations were later extended to other areas of Telangana and other Indian states including Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh Bihar, Jharkhand and Delhi.
At the outset, LEPRA Society focused specifically on supporting the government of India’s National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) in Hyderabad. Leprosy control activities were carried out according to a Survey, Education and Treatment (SET) strategy in which identifying all patients living in an area, by means of case finding methods like mass, contact and school surveys, and treating them with multi-drug therapy (MDT) was the prime objective.
In the eight-year period from 1988 to 1996, however, we witnessed remarkable growth in our leprosy activities, starting with the expansion of the reach of our MDT services and the introduction of prevention of disabilities (POD) services in projects. This was followed by the establishment of reconstructive surgery (RCS) services, along with the development of a model for community-supported socio-economic rehabilitation. During this period, 175,000 persons affected by leprosy were treated with MDT, 300 persons with deformities underwent reconstructive surgery and 500 persons with deformities benefited from socio-economic rehabilitation activities. In addition, LEPRA Society gained experience of working with government services and learned to develop successful partnership models with state governments.
After more than a decade of service in the field of leprosy, during which we were instrumental in reducing the prevalence rate of leprosy in all intervention areas, we utilised our field strengths and technical capacities to extend our scope and respond to the mounting public health problems of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. LEPRA Society’s contribution to the government-led Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) and our work with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is widely recognised and, as a result of our extensive work with HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support, we have been made an HIV/AIDS Alliance Lead Partner in India.
In addition to our work with TB and HIV/AIDS, LEPRA Society also works with malaria and disabilities arising from diseases other than leprosy. We are involved in the implementation of the government’s National Anti-Malaria Programme (NAMP) and do extensive work with eye care and prevention of needless blindness.
LEPRA Society recognises the growing and urgent public health challenges posed by TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS and are therefore utilizing our strong field operations and substantial technical expertise to address them. However, as more and more leprosy-focused organisations discontinue their field-based activities, leprosy affected persons risk being marginalised and neglected. Leprosy and leprosy affected persons must therefore remain the primary focus for LEPRA Society and, in an increasingly challenging policy landscape, we continue to support the integration process as well as to provide field-based care and rehabilitation services to leprosy affected persons.