9 Mar 2015

Leprosy stigma contributes to prevalence, says research

9:17 am on 9 March 2015

Researchers in New Zealand have found a continuing deep-seated stigma around leprosy in the Pacific, which could be contributing to an increase in the disease in some countries.

The Pacific Leprosy Foundation says the stigma is proving a major barrier to people seeking treatment for the curable disease, which has left some people needlessly disabled as a result.

Its chief executive, Jill Tomlinson, says the fact leprosy is not dangerous needs to be better communicated with people, and countries are starting to realise that.

"It's fear is completely unfounded nowadays, there's been a very effective cure since the 1980s, but people still have a perception that it's a very dreaded disease."

Jill Tomlinson says her organisation is trying to work with governments and village leaders to erase the stigma.

Angau Hospital, Lae, Papua New Guinea

Angau Hospital, Lae, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI