Secrets of Leprosy : “Suffering Can Be Stopped” - Hope 103.2

Secrets of Leprosy : “Suffering Can Be Stopped”

For World Leprosy Day, charities throughout the world - including Mission Australia - are working to stamp out the stigma of the disease.

By Mike CrooksSunday 28 Jan 2024NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Leprosy comes with a stigma of biblical proportions, but the World Health Organisation doesn’t want people to see it that way.

On World Leprosy Day this Sunday, January 28, the WHO and the Swiss-based International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) are promoting awareness of the curable disease.

This year’s theme for the day is “Beat Leprosy”, which comes with two objectives: “To eradicate the stigma associated with leprosy and to promote the dignity of people affected by the disease,” reads an ILEP statement.

“The theme of Beat Leprosy serves as a powerful reminder of the need to address the social and psychological aspects of leprosy, alongside the medical efforts to eliminate the disease.”

What is Leprosy?

Leprosy – or Hansen’s diseaseis a bacterial disease that causes pale patches of skin or numbness in the fingers or toes.

“This is because the disease mainly affects the nerves and skin,” explained the ILEP in a statement.

“If left untreated, it can lead to nerve damage, loss of feeling and paralysis of muscles in the hands, feet and face.”

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Like the common cold, leprosy is transmitted by air (droplets from the nose and mouth). But once treated it is no longer infectious.

How is it treated?

Most people know of leprosy through its prevalence in the bible, and in biblical-related stories and films, where it is often represented as an incurable deadly disease.

But since 1981, leprosy has been treated effectively through a combination of three antibiotic drugs (dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine).

“A six-to-twelve-month course of treatment kills the bacteria and cures the person,” according to the ILEP.

Where is Leprosy?

It is reported in 107 countries, with most new cases occurring in India, Brazil and Indonesia.

Though leprosy is very rare in Australia there are cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in northern Australia, according to SA Health.

And it is found in migrants to Australia from countries where the disease is more common.

Australian mission

To coincide with World Leprosy Day, Leprosy Mission Australia has released a podcast about leprosy that includes real stories of people suffering from the disease.

Hidden Lives is co-hosted by Leprosy Mission Australia’s international programs officer Eva Lee.

The first episode shares the story of Karuna, a 15-year-old girl from Nepal.

“When you first meet Karuna with her big eyes, her long eyelashes and bright smile, you would think she was just like every other 15-year-old, going to school, talking about fashion and makeup with her friends,” Ms Lee said.

But Karuna suffers from leprosy.

She is one of the many people who receives help from the Leprosy Mission Australia projects run with Leprosy Mission Nepal and supported by the Australian community through donations.

Leprosy in Nepal

According to Leprosy Mission Australia, around 2,500 to 3,000 people each year are diagnosed with Leprosy in Nepal.

“We hope the podcast will give listeners a more detailed understanding of a project participant’s life from the perspective of The Leprosy Mission staff working with them,” Ms Lee said.

“Their lives might be completely different to those of people living in Australia, but they also have amazing life experiences worth sharing.

“As staff of the Leprosy Mission Australia, we want to uncover what is hidden and share with you the lives of the people we meet through our work – people who benefit from the generous support of our donors and supporters.”

“Suffering is needless.”

For World Leprosy Day, Leprosy Mission Australia is joining other charities throughout the world in helping raise awareness and stamp out the stigma associated with the disease.

“The Hidden Lives Podcast reminds us that though sometimes hidden or forgotten, leprosy still exists,” Leprosy Mission Australia CEO Dr Greg Clarke.

“However, this tropical disease is preventable and treatable, and suffering from leprosy is needless.”

For more information on the podcast visit here.

Feature image: Photo by Canva Pro