21 January 2022 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Guam proclaims January “Leprosy Awareness Month”

On 21 January 2022, Governor Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero and Lieutenant Governor Joshua F. Tenorio of Guam signed a proclamation establishing January as Leprosy Awareness Month and January 30, 2022, as World Leprosy Day. The Virtual Proclamation Signing Ceremony was broadcast on the Governor’s Facebook Live channel.
Remarks in support of this proclamation were provided by: Arthur San Agustin, Director, Department of Public Health & Social Services; Barbara M. Stryjewska, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, CDC; Samuel Taveras, Director of the Office of Island Affairs, CDC; Bill Gallo, Secretariat Director, Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy; Dr. Kalpeshsinh Rahevar, Medical Officer, WHO; and Professor Takahiro Nanri, Executive Director, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation.

Remarks from the Secretariat Director of the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy are shared below:

Hafa adai! I am Bill Gallo, Secretariat Director for the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy or GPZL. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in today’s important event as Guam honors World Leprosy Day. Lt. Governor Tenorio’s signing of this proclamation is yet another example of Guam’s leadership in the Pacific Region in the fight against Hansen’s Disease, TB, and other public health threats including this unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic. 

In my prior role as the US Centers for Disease Control’s Senior Advisor for the Pacific Islands, I had the privilege of meeting the Governor and Lt Governor shortly after the election. I remember how excited we were that Guam elected a nurse with a master’s degree in public health. And it is great to see how she has maintained her commitment to health.  Guam is fortunate to have her at the helm, particularly during the COVID pandemic.  Her commitment is evident throughout the administration and extends to Lt Governor Tenorio, DPHSS Director San Augustin, and Guam’s TB and Leprosy Coordinator, Chima Mbakwem.   

The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy unites a broad and diverse global leprosy community with the shared vision of eliminating Hansen’s disease, as well as disease-related disability and stigma. Our members include national governments, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, the corporate sector, and persons affected by Hansen’s disease.  While Hansen’s disease rates are significantly higher in Guam than in the rest of the US, some of Guam’s neighboring island countries have even higher rates.  GPZL has identified some of those countries in the Pacific region to receive targeted technical assistance in 2022. This includes the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati.   

We at GPZL appreciate our relationship with Chima and the Guam TB and Leprosy program and we look forward to continuing our work together to eliminate Hansen’s disease in the Pacific. We also are very grateful for the support and attention from the highest levels of leadership in Guam toward achieving zero leprosy. We hope that you can serve as an example and encourage your counterparts, including the chief executives from RMI, FSM, and its states, to join with Guam and provide the same level of support that you have in the fight against Hansen’s disease.