Seen as the scourge of mankind, Leprosy has been dreaded more for the social ostracism it brings than the manifold physical suffering the disease brings. Scientifically, Leprosy is known as the Hansen’s disease, after Armauer Hansen who discovered the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae in 1873, which causes the disease. For many centuries the incurability of the disease and the resulting serious deformities had created a dreaded halo around it. This sad state of affairs continued up to 1941.
Relief came when Dapsone, a drug, was made available to the world after the Second World War. But, it could only slow down the progression of the disease.
The introduction of multi drugs therapy with a combined administration of Clofaximine, Rifampicin and Daspone in the early nineteen eighties marked a historical change .. leprosy is curable. Ignorance, poverty and poor living conditions has however ensured that the disease remains bringing more and more people into its dreaded fold. Every year, about 6,50,000 new cases of leprosy are detected in the world.
Today, the most endemic countries are India and Brazil. It is estimated that there are about 12 million leprosy affected persons in the world, who are cured, but continue to need support for physical and psychological disabilities and for social handicap due to stigma. And that is where organizations working towards the elimination of leprosy and the social ostracism of leprosy patients step in.
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