Demystifying a highly misunderstood disease – leprosy

Demystifying a highly misunderstood disease – leprosy

Leprosy is the oldest infectious disease in human history – researchers believe that leprosy appears in an Egyptian Papyrus document written around 1550 B.C. This ancient disease thrives in the 21st century with over 2,00, 000 new cases detected in 150 countries in 2017.

Even today, when leprosy is curable, the age-old stigma attached to it has not been cured. Stigma is a reality in the lives of the people affected by leprosy, and this hampers their physical, psychological, social and economic well-being. The stigma attached to leprosy is so acute that persons affected by the disease, in many cases, are forced to leave their homes and live in isolated colonies. Stigma leads to irrational behaviour towards people affected by the disease. It is hurtful and leads to discriminatory practices.

Those who live within society are often excluded from taking part in mainstream society. They are often ostracised and prevented from accessing community resources, like water from community wells, and are excluded from festivals and community gatherings. They are denied education, employment and often lose the freedom to marry a ‘normal’ person. Fear of stigma and discrimination stop people with leprosy seeking medical treatment. They sometimes even face discrimination at the hands of health workers and medical practitioners who are uninformed.

The stigma and discrimination extend to the family as well. Members are treated in a similar way and not allowed to participate in society. So, many families reject the person affected by leprosy for fear of exclusion, thus leaving them without family, home and social support networks.

Because of stigma and discrimination, people affected by leprosy often experience loss of self-esteem and dignity and feel fear, shame, hopelessness and guilt. Leprosy, like other infectious diseases, often affects the poorest and the most marginalised communities who already have a history of being discriminated against. They have a limited capacity to defend their rights and challenge stigma.

For this reason, clearing up the myths and misconceptions about leprosy are crucial in our fight against leprosy. In our effort to dispel such myths, WE BRING YOU OUR BROCHURE, ‘Demystifying a Highly Misunderstood Disease-Leprosy: 9 Common Leprosy Myths Busted’, which presents key facts about leprosy:

English version:

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