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Stigma, separation, sorrow: leprosy in Australia
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) was introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s and its story reflects the attitudes of the 19th and 20th centuries, with treatment including segregation, paternalism, and racism. The approaches taken within the Australian states were similar and based on isolating people affected by leprosy, as both a measure to assist the patient but, more importantly, to protect the European society. The most devastating effects of this introduced disease and these approaches were on Indigenous Australians. With the advent of effective antimicrobials, isolation practices were slowly replaced with community-based treatment. However, the term ‘leper’ still evokes negative images in Australian society today.
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