British Leprosy Relief Association
Curing the stigma of leprosy
a23 Duncarse Rd Dundee, UK
Correspondence to: J. Rafferty (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The stigma of leprosy is a real phenomenon in many people’s lives that affects their physical, psychological, social and economical well-being. There are many causes for this damaging image of leprosy. There is no one easy answer to dispelling this image; it is something that has to be done in partnership with communities and patients. Many papers document the effects of stigma, but few discuss or trial solutions. Education and media campaigns counteract false beliefs about leprosy and raise awareness of new advances in the field. Leprosy care is increasingly provided in an integrated setting showing patients and their communities that leprosy is not a disease apart. Physical and socio-economic rehabilitation is worthwhile in restoring self worth and status in the community and helps patients to find employment. Group counselling can allow those with leprosy to talk about their feelings and experiences to empower one another. Gradually attitudes towards leprosy are changing, but there is still much to be done if the underlying menace of stigma is to be dealt with. We as health professionals must be prepared to make the first move and give that first touch. Certainly more research is needed. In the highly endemic countries the road to elimination may yet be long. Perhaps with effort we will one day be able not only to treat the disease, but also to cure the stigma of leprosy, and make that road an easier one.