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Wednesday, August 21, 2019
BRASILIA, Jul 15 2019 (IPS) - On Jun. 27, Faustino Pinto was in Geneva, Switzerland, where he spoke to people at the United Nations about the fight against Hansen’s Disease and the stigma surrounding it, at a meeting during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.
Eleven days later, in Brasilia, he discussed the question with President Jair Bolsonaro, when he took part in a meeting along with Yohei Sasakawa, president of the Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination, who visited Brazil Jul. 1-10.
Pinto was able to present his views, as national coordinator of the Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hanseniasis (Morhan), in all the meetings Sasakawa held with ministers, legislators and health and human rights officials in the Brazilian capital.
The aim was to intensify action at a national level to eliminate the infectious disease as well as the discrimination suffered by current and former patients.
Abolishing the term leprosy to refer to the disease caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacillus is a central focus of Pinto, who sees it as necessary given the burden of prejudice that the word has accumulated over centuries, which is even reflected in sections of the Bible.
Another great difficulty, he said, is the lack of knowledge about the disease among the public, which hinders early detection, needed to prevent permanent damage in patients, such as damage to the peripheral nervous system that can even cause disabilities.
Pinto felt the first symptoms of the disease at the age of nine and suffered for another nine years until he was diagnosed with Hanseniasis. Because of the delay, the five years of treatment he later received could not prevent some permanent damage, especially noticeable in his hands, which are partially paralysed.
He emphasises the need for early diagnosis in order to achieve a true cure for patients and ultimately eliminate the disease. At the age of 48 he became an activist who is known even at an international level, as he combats Hansen’s Disease which mainly affects the poor.
In Brazil there are almost 30,000 new cases per year, a figure surpassed only by India.
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