British Leprosy Relief Association
An assessment of knowledge and attitudes towards leprosy/Hansen’s disease amongst healthcare workers in Guyana
aGuys and St Thomas’ Hospitals, London, UK
b16 King Henry Close, Charlton Park, Cheltenham GL5 7EZ, UK
cThe Old Rectory, Withiel, Bodmin, Cornwall, UK
Correspondence to: A Briden (Tel: +44-1242-521439; e-mail: anita˙firstname.lastname@example.org)
Background leprosy is still prevalent in certain parts of the world, particularly India and South America. In order to reduce the associated stigma, it was renamed Hansen’s disease, although the associated prejudice and social stigma are thought to remain obstacles to its eradication. This study, set in Guyana, aims to assess attitudes, ideas and knowledge of the disease amongst healthcare workers. A self-completing questionnaire was designed and distributed amongst healthcare workers in both Georgetown Central Hospital and Suddi Hospital over a 4-week period in September 2000. The information was then collated and analysed using STATA 6.0. A total of 185 questionnaires were completed and returned. They showed that knowledge of the disease was relatively good, but that certain facts were not widely known. For example, half the respondents did not know that leprosy is now curable, many thought it could be transmitted through touch. Although most respondents did not display prejudice in their own responses, many implied that prejudice was still present in the wider community. A significant minority believed that patients should be kept apart from other people. It is evident from the study that some prejudices and misconceptions still exist. In order to reduce this, an emphasis needs to be placed on education regarding transmission and the low rate of infectivity of leprosy; that it is not spread by touch and is now curable, also that, if treated in the early stages, it has a very good prognosis. It is these areas which health education should focus upon.