leprosy stigma still rampant in many countries experts raise alarm over judgemental attitudes
Leprosy remains an age-old disease, still endemic in more than 120 countries. The condition leaves an estimated one to two million people across the globe visibly disfigured and lacking support to address the stigma they face. But leprosy can be cured.
Top UN-appointed human rights experts raised serious concerns over leprosy stigma on Thursday, noting that some 200,000 new cases of the disease are registered each year. Leprosy victims have a right to high-quality support and health care, they said.
Leprosy patients kept away from public spaces and interaction with other people
The rights experts urged governments and international organisations to make sure their policies and procedures reflect this fundamental requirement. Their statement comes ahead of World Leprosy Day on January 28 – the last Sunday of January.
The rights experts – known as Special Rapporteurs and appointed by the Human Rights Council – noted that leprosy patients and their families continue to be segregated in “ex-colonies”, and kept away from public spaces and interaction with other people.
Children, the elderly and women are particularly affected by leprosy and judgemental attitudes, besides minorities and indigenous people. People suffering from the condition have a right to early detection and treatment, in addition to rehabilitation and active support.
Leprosy – also called Hansen’s disease – remains a contagious condition. One way it spreads is from person to person. Even so, it’s really hard to catch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says most humans are immune to the bacteria behind the disease.
Leprosy shouldn’t be a source of stigma, but an opportunity to be compassionate
The theme for World Leprosy Day 2024 is “Beat Leprosy”. This theme encapsulates the dual objectives of the day: to promote the dignity of people affected by leprosy and to eradicate the stigma associated with the disease.
This year’s theme serves as a powerful reminder of the need to address the social and psychological aspects of leprosy, alongside the medical efforts to eliminate the disease. Leprosy must become an opportunity to demonstrate compassion for all.