Region 1 Medical Center Launches Hansen’s Disease Support Group to End Stigma

Region 1 Medical Center-Department of Dermatology (DOD) launched its own Hansen’s disease support group on March 3, in line with the Leprosy Prevention and Control Week celebration. The group aims to provide a safe space for patients and their families to share their experiences and receive support.

The support group was established with the help of DOD chair Dr. May Gonzales, who has been an advocate for leprosy elimination and ending the stigma associated with the disease. Dr. Gonzales shared in a Facebook post that creating a support group for leprosy patients and their families has been her dream advocacy.

The launch of the Hansen’s disease support group was made possible by the support of the hospital management, HD core group, program sponsor Kusum Pharma, and the Gender and Development-Hospital as a Center of Wellness Program.

Patients and relatives of persons with the disease were installed as official members of the R1MC Hansen’s Disease Support Group (HDSG) during the launch, with DOD chair Dr. May Gonzales leading the group. The event featured an interactive lecture on Hansen’s Disease and a message from Chief of Medical Professional Staff Dr. Arnel Gerard Gazmen on behalf of R1MC Chief Dr. Joseph Roland O. Mejia.

The Hansen’s disease core group was also introduced during the event. It is composed of unit head Dr. Eunice Kaye Rayos-Lopez, assistant unit head Dr. Maria Roma Gonzales, resident members Dr. Jenika Simbillo, Dr. Pearl Diane Aves, Dr. Celina Faye Manalastas, Dr. Marion Meneses, Dr. Jan Raemon Tee, Dr. Ezra Haduca, and head nurse Lee Marvin Padilla.

Prior to the official launch, an informal gathering was held on January 27 during the World Leprosy Day where the Hansen’s disease patients, their relatives, and the support group had the opportunity to get to know each other.

The establishment of the Hansen’s disease support group at Region 1 Medical Center-Department of Dermatology is a significant step towards eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. It will provide a much-needed support system for patients and their families, as well as educate the public about Hansen’s disease.