Anti-leprosy day: | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Anti-leprosy day: Stigma attached to leprosy still haunts many patients

They treated her as untouchable, passed remarks full of hatred and asked relatives not to keep her in the house. In her early teens, Shabnam (name changed) had to suffer a lot just because she had leprosy, a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects skin, peripheral nerves and even eyes.

punjab Updated: Jan 30, 2016 16:43 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal

They treated her as untouchable, passed remarks full of hatred and asked relatives not to keep her in the house. In her early teens, Shabnam (name changed) had to suffer a lot just because she had leprosy, a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects skin, peripheral nerves and even eyes.

Hers is not a case in isolation. The stigma attached with leprosy still haunts people suffering from the disease, which is otherwise fully curable.

In 2015-16, total 269 cases of leprosy (till December) were treated at various leprosy clinics in the city. Out of them, total 98 cases were newly detected and three patients had grade-2 disability.

Last year, the number was 305, of which total 173 cases were newly detected, with 10 having grade-2 disability.

Shabnam, now 18, was 13-yearold when she noticed white patches on her skin. Unaware that these were the initial symptoms of leprosy, she continued to ignore until the fingers of her right hand started curving and lost sensation. Six months later, she was diagnosed for leprosy with grade-2 disability.

“There was a loss of sensation in my right hand and I could not hold things as my hand used to remain numb,”said Shabnam.

The physical disfigurement caused by leprosy also leads to embarrassment for many patients, who often try to hide their curled fingers and, at times, avoid treatment also.

“My neighbours used to taunt me and would ask my aunt not to allow me to inside the house,”said Shabnam, adding that she once heard her neighbour saying to her aunt, “Aise insaano ko ghar mein nahi rehne dete.”(Don’t let such people reside in your house).

Another leprosy patient, Raghu (name changed) said, “People stopped shaking hands with me and would look at me as an untouchable.”