Every year since 1954, the final Sunday in January has been recognized as World Leprosy Day. The day was first established by Raoul Follereau, a French writer and philanthropist. The event is held to help spread awareness about leprosy (also called Hansen’s disease) and related diseases, as well as advocate for the rights of patients living with this disease, which carries severe social stigma.
Leprosy is a long term infectious disease. This illness has been known to civilization for thousands of years; this has unfortunately led to the development of deeply rooted cultural stigma against patients with the disease, primarily because of an unfounded belief that the disease can spread incredibly easy and because of the disfiguring effects of the disease if it remains untreated. The disease is caused by infection from the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Symptoms of leprosy include numb, discolored patches of skin, numbness in the hands and feet, nerve damage, and tissue loss, which can lead to deformations of the hands, feet, and joints. Symptoms may not appear for many years after the person becomes infected. The disease is solely spread through contact with fluid from an infected person. Multidrug therapy can resolve symptoms in most people and relapse is incredibly rare. To learn more about leprosy, click here.
Make a Difference
This year, World Leprosy Day will focus on informing the public on the facts about leprosy and joining the campaign to #EndStigma surrounding the disease. Get involved on your own social media platforms and spread the word that #LeprosyisCurable. The stigma that surrounds the illness can lead to patients being isolated and ostracized from their own communities, and some patients continue to live among one another, excluded from society. Therefore the #MentalWellbeing of leprosy patients and survivors will be another focus this year.
This year’s event will be primarily a social media driven campaign, with the goal of spreading awareness across as many platforms as possible. Interested in getting involved? Check out this social media kit here. It contains a variety of resources for different platforms.