Home Dehradun Break the Stigma: Leprosy

Break the Stigma: Leprosy


By Our Staff Reporter

Dehradun, 30 Jan: Observed on 31 January every year, World Leprosy Day is celebrated to raise awareness about leprosy and teach people about the disease. Even today, people around the world suffer from leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, though now, with modern medicine and practices, leprosy is curable.
Leprosy is caused by a bacterial disease which multiplies slowly, affecting the nerve endings so much so that it destroys the body’s ability to feel pain. The symptoms can occur within one year but can take as long as twenty years to show, sometimes longer. Leprosy mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy, if caught in time, is curable with multidrug treatment.
The stigma surrounding leprosy is so great that people with leprosy or even those who have now been cured of it, are treated unfairly by society. The lack of awareness about the disease is what causes this behaviour. Putting a stop to the discrimination and stigma faced by people who have leprosy and understanding the causes and treatment is important.
The first treatment for leprosy came about in the 1940s. The duration of the treatment lasted several years, making it difficult for patients to comply. In the 1960’s, two new drugs were added to the treatment plan for leprosy making it a multidrug treatment therapy. More than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated with the multidrug treatment over the years. The cases of leprosy are reducing and 45 countries that otherwise had cases of leprosy reported zero cases in 2019. The year 2020 saw 1,27,558 cases of leprosy globally; 6% of this number were children below the age of 15.
In 2019, the countries with the highest number of new leprosy cases were India, Brazil, and Indonesia. Most of the cases in India, which is home to one third of the total number of leprosy-affected people, worldwide, are below the poverty line.
The discrimination faced by people affected by leprosy include social exclusion, deprivation of right to education, trouble with housing and employment, domestic violence, sexual violence and in turn, serious mental health issues. Leprosy is curable with timely diagnosis and proper treatment. People that are not treated face irreversible physical impairments and disabilities and are further marginalised from society.

Shiv Sadan at Raphael, Dehradun, is a colony of leprosy-cured individuals. The residents of Shiv Sadan live a respectful, dignified life with their families, receive groceries and other necessities, have the support of the organisation and of each other and get medical attention when required.
Leprosy patients deserve the same love and respect that every other member in society receives. We have to break the stigma and change our mindset about leprosy and allow the unfortunate people who are affected by it to live a happy and honourable life.
Some of the organisations working with leprosy include Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation which works towards providing employment opportunities to leprosy-affected people and their families; The Leprosy Mission Trust India that does research and spreads awareness about leprosy in addition to having healthcare programmes in ten states; Damien Foundation which provides livelihood provisions for people affected by leprosy; the World Health Organisation which has multiple projects to raise awareness, diagnose and treat leprosy across the world; and Association for Leprosy Education Rehabilitation and Treatment that provides livelihood opportunities and education to leprosy patients and their children.