Posted on January 20, 2022 in News by The Grand Priory of America
Dame Carlotta Hill Rotman, MD, DLJ, SMLJ and
Chevalier Michael Milner, RADM, USPHS (ret), DHSc, PA-C, KCLJ, OMLJ
World Leprosy Day, established by the French philanthropist Raoul Falleraeu in 1954, is traditionally observed on the last Sunday in January. Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, the preferred name today, is one of the oldest diseases known to humanity. A foundational principle of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Lazarus of Jerusalem was dedication to the care of those afflicted with the disease and a leprosarium was established by the Order outside of the gates of Jerusalem in the early 12th century. The disease is caused by two species of Mycobacteria, namely Mycobacterium Leprae and Mycobacterium Lepromatosis. Patients with the disease present with skin lesions which may or may not be anesthetic (numb area of the skin) and /or numbness in the extremities. Untreated it may lead to nerve damage with resulting deformity; this leads to stigmatization. The World Health Organization reports about 200,000 new cases a year with India, Brazil, and Indonesia being the countries reporting the most cases. In many parts of the world the diagnosis is made clinically but in the United States it is usually confirmed by a biopsy. Hansen’s disease is a treatable, curable condition and since the early 1980’s millions of people have been cured worldwide by the use of Multi Drug Therapy.
The Grand Priory of America, Order of St. Lazarus, has over the years supported leprosy clinics providing direct patient care in India, Mexico, Cuba and the United States and has supported research efforts in the United States and Brazil. On the island of Molokai, at the Kalaupapa leprosy village, our Grand Priory has provided needed medical equipment, PPE, and recreational items along with equipment to update their Telehealth capacity during the Covid pandemic. Direct clinical treatment is provided in Honolulu for the 9 remaining residents at this facility, but our member, Sr. Alica Damien Lau, ChLJ and a small, dedicated team of “nursing nuns”, assist them with day to day needs to improve their quality of life in their remaining years. True Christian Love in Action! This month, January 2022 has become designated as “Kalaupapa Month” in Hawaii by recent gubernatorial decree. Even with the decline in numbers of cases worldwide the numbers of new cases occurring annually has remained about the same leading to a renewed interest in a vaccine. Our Grand Priory is working behind the scenes with our Grand Priory in Canada colleagues and leaders of the Rising Star Outreach (one of our Pentecostal Appeal grantees) to help find ways to develop funding and then deployment of Lepvax, a promising vaccine in late stage clinical trials. Those efforts are ongoing but delayed due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to “rid the world of Leprosy in our lifetime”?