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Leprosy is an infectious disease of the skin and nerves which, if not diagnosed and treated quickly, can result in debilitating disabilities. It can be cured through the multi-medications treatment.

In 2015 over 210,000 people were diagnosed and it is estimated that millions more go undiagnosed. At the moment, too many children have disability at diagnosis. Our aim is that all children will be treated and cured before disability occurs.

Jayashree’s story (a victim of Leprosy)

As a young girl I experienced leprosy. I was lucky enough to be diagnosed before any major disabilities were formed and completed treatment. After taking the medication, physically I was cured but, what took longer to deal with was the psychological impact the disease left me with.

I felt the stigma and shame that many do when they are diagnosed with leprosy, but my wonderful family gave me so much support. With this I was able to go on to become a successful chartered accountant but the fact that I had experienced leprosy stuck with me, and the word ‘leper’ stayed with me for a long time…

That was until I decided to give it up.

I had heard it used so many times in conversations and I think it is derogatory to call someone who is affected by the disease a ‘leper’ or even to use that term in conversations to describe an outcast. The word denotes something inhuman – as if the person affected has no place in mainstream society when nobody should be made to feel that way, especially when they have an illness that is entirely curable.

Leprosy is a simple disease, easily treated and of no consequence if detected early. There is no need for a person affected to be ostracised from mainstream society. By titling someone a ‘leper,’ society is stripping that individual of all dignity, of humanity and relegating the person to the dark lanes of despair. We don’t want to be doing that which is why I’m saying we should pledge today to remove the word from society and to let anyone we hear using it know that the word causes much offence.”

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