Whenever we think of leprosy, we think of dreadful, drastic and scary images of mutation and deformation that come to our minds. Leprosy is seen as being ugly and unpleasant. There is a great social stigma behind this problem. Contrary to popular belief “leprosy is NOT contagious”. Prolonged exposure with leprosy patients of 10-15yrs may make you susceptible to the disease, but 9 out of 10 persons are naturally immune to this disease. Leprosy is “ Not genetic”, it’s an infection caused by a bacteria called mycobacterium laprea. It is a curable disease, through a treatment called Multidrug Therapy, a treatment interrupting the transmission of the disease after the first dose of medication and preventing disabilities.
The social stigma behind this is so high, that it has now reached immeasurable heights. Its an age old disease and traces go back to 600 B.C. It was considered to be the disease of the soul, a shameful affliction brought about by wrong doing or committing a sin in a previous life, through a curse of god or witchcraft-a punishment. Why such cruelty?
On asking an advertising professional who has worked with leprosy patients, we came to know that in some states there used to be a legislation that did not permit leprosy patients to use public transport or inherit property. If your spouse had the disease, according to the legislation you could get an instant divorce.
In Europe, during the Middle Ages, leprosy patients had to wear special clothing, ring bells to warn others that they were close, and even walk on a particular side of the road. Well, Its not very different in our country, society has treated these patients badly and till today, legislations and acts are being misused. Society has dealt with the disease by isolating leprosy patients and casting them out of their families and communities to live in segregated areas. Leprosy patients were ashamed of their condition and tried to hide the disease in fear of social repercussions and societal fears. How can society isolate people from their families? Today its happened to people in your neighborhood, tomorrow it can happen to you or your loved ones. They need support and encouragement, love and care, not being isolated and thrown out of their homes.
What is leprosy?-----Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease of the skin and nerves in the hands and feet and, in some cases, the lining of the nose. It affects the peripheral nerves, the eyes and mucous membrane.
In 1986 , the disability act was introduced in our country according to which and disabled person would experience equal rights. Leprosy patients come under the disabled act, so they to are also entitled to the same rights as the impaired but we don’t see them exercising their rights.
We as abled citizens of this country should help them exercise their rights.