News / Health

Stigma Stymies India’s Leprosy Battle

India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigmai
X
Shaikh Azizur Rahman
August 27, 2014 2:48 PM
Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly-infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science.

Christian charity hospital The Leprosy Mission in Kolkata is among the country’s best for treating leprosy patients.
 
When a young male patient arrives, a physiologist checks his arms for signs of nerve damage that can debilitate and deform. Elsewhere, eye doctors test another patient's vision.

Stigma

For many patients, the gruesome toll that the disease inflicts on their bodies is not the worst part about having leprosy. It’s how other people treat them.

"People hate me because I have leprosy. When they see my festering wounds they fear that I will infect them," one patient confided. "So they cover their face and move away from me.”
 
Social stigma against the disease in India is strong. None of the patients want to be identified by name on camera.
 
Early drug intervention can arrest leprosy’s ruinous impact, but many newly- infected people, who worry about being ostracized, hide their condition for years until they start to become disabled.  
 
An 18-year-old patient got the infection in childhood, but only recently sought medical treatment when it started affecting his hands and feet.
 
Once at The Leprosy Mission, patients can receive drugs to mitigate the disease’s impact, get custom-made shoes to fit disfigured feet, or even have prosthetic limbs designed.
 
But then the time comes for patients to leave, which frequently becomes the biggest challenge, according to Dr. Helen Roberts, superintendent of The Leprosy Mission.

“When the treatment gets over there is often such cases that people don’t want to take them back to their homes. That’s why the treatment becomes very difficult for us because it’s a hospital providing healthcare. But it’s not a home - we cannot keep them here forever,” she explained.
 
Consequences


Families effectively disown sons, daughters and siblings. Businesses fire infected workers. Many patients end up impoverished and ostracized in places like this leprosy colony, 130 kilometers from Kolkata.

India has made great strides in treating the disease through specialized leprosy clinics. But Dr. Jerry Joshua, a surgeon at The Leprosy Mission, said the fact there is a specialized hospital for leprosy at all is a part of the problem.
 
“There is actually no need for centers exclusively for leprosy. The treatment that is provided here should be made available to them wherever they can access such as any plastic surgery or orthopedic surgery unit. Unfortunately this is not the case where patients do not mingle with each other,” he said.
 
Dr. Joshua added that in an ideal situation, hospitals like his should not exist, and leprosy would be treated no differently than heart disease or diabetes. 

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid