Today, we talk about leprosy, because someone has to. While nationally it was declared eradicated back in 2004, you'd be surprised to know that in the last two years, Maharashtra state alone has recorded over 14,000 new leprosy cases.
Leprosy is a chronic, infectious disease , which affects the skin , mucous membranes and nerves. It causes discolouration and lumps on the skin. In severe cases, it can also cause disfigurement and deformities
As if the disease itself wasn't debilitating enough, patients have to suffer through unimaginable stigma . From being refused entry into public spaces to being denied access to schools, these patients are shunned routinely, because people assume they are contagious.
The truth is anything but that. 95% of adults cannot catch leprosy, because their immune system can fight off the bacteria that causes it. People with leprosy who are being treated with antibiotics can live a normal life among their family and friends, and can continue to attend work or school.
Damodar Ganesh Bapat and his team from Amravati, help patients regain the dignity they deserve, supporting them in their fight against the disease. He runs a vocational training school, keeping patients engaged in gainful employment. He was awarded the Padmashri for his work this year.
While it isn't possible for everyone to follow Damodar's lead, we could help by creating awareness, and helping people who suffer from leprosy feel more welcome in our society.