Back to search

Addressing Stigma in Leprosy

There are a number of chronic health conditions that bear the burden of stigma, but perhaps the most powerful image of stigma is that related to leprosy; still a common metaphor for stigma. Weiss recognized this reality and to lay emphasis on it, he disclosed that leprosy had been the only condition for which explicit and exclusive studies of stigma had been supported by the WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).1 Leprosy patients have been made to live in segregated colonies outside the communities or in distant islands. Now with availability of early detection methods and effective treatment, patients can take treatment in their homes with reduced incidences of deformities and disabilities. Yet, there is discrimination against people affected by leprosy, which needs to be removed from the public mind, so that they can lead a normal life. References to earlier studies on stigma showed that it is not the disease per se that invokes negative responses but disfigurement and disability caused by the disease that resulted in rejection.2Studies show that patients with leprosy , without visible deformity or ulceration do not appear to suffer participation restriction.3Even today communities perceive leprosy as a disease from God, the will of God or as a punishment by God.4

More information

Book Chapter