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2000-2005: Free Treatment Benefit Leprosy Patients
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About 2,400 people with leprosy were treated without charge between 2000 and 2005.

According to Wang Xinxian, vice chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, there are now about 230,000 leprosy sufferers across the country, half of whom are disabled by the infectious disease.

During the 10th Five-Year Guideline period (2001-2005), 12 medical teams were dispatched to carry out free treatment on 2,438 disabled lepers in 11 provinces and regions.

The program cost 8.4 million yuan (US$1.04 million), which was paid from the lottery-based public benefit fund operated by the federation.

"The aid program has not only played a positive role in reducing the bias toward leprosy patients, but also helped to train medical workers in treating the disease," Wang said on January 24 at a rally held in Daxin County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which was jointly sponsored by the China Disabled Persons' Federation and the Ministry of Health to commend units and individuals that had scored outstanding achievements in the program.

Wang said that during the country's 11th Five-Year Guideline period (2006-2010), his federation will continue to provide leprosy patients with more help by raising the scale and standard of relief. He also appealed to the public to end discrimination against leprosy sufferers.

Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world and was first mentioned in writing in 600 BC. The bacillus that causes the disease can incubate in the human body for up to 20 years. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose or mouth during contact with untreated, infected sufferers.

It is a chronic disease characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone and internal organs that can lead to the loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene and deformation of the limbs.

World Leprosy Day is celebrated all over the world on the last Sunday of January, and this year it falls on January 29, Wang said.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Disabled Persons' Federation, January 26, 2006)



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