End the stigma of leprosy – a curable disease

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Imagine how you would feel if a curable disease left you to suffer with life-changing disabilities, extreme isolation and even separation from those closest to you.

This is the case with leprosy. Although there is a cure, up to 4 million people are living with severe disabilities and mental health problems as a consequence. Many are excluded from society. Their disabilities often prevent them from employment and many experience excruciating stigma, alone.

“I’m cured now, but people change direction when they see me, because they are worried I’m still contagious. This upsets me because I am a very sociable person”.

Gangadham, 40, India

But, there is a solution to help tackle stigma and promote inclusion. Self-help groups enable people to support one another through sharing knowledge, experiences and to combat isolation. The group members are able to advocate for their rights together and raise awareness within communities to break down stigma. They also learn how to care for their injuries or ulcers, which can help them back into employment.

“As leader of the self-help group I teach the members how to best look after their ulcers to prevent permanent damage. My volunteer work gives me strength and helping others by drawing on my experience helps me too”.

António (pictured), 58, Mozambique

We want Commonwealth leaders to prioritise disability inclusion for people affected by leprosy through increasing community based self-help services alongside the distribution of medical treatments. They are the key decision-makers to enable the expansion of self-help services, so that nobody is left behind. 

Please sign and share this petition today. Without your help, leprosy will remain one of the most neglected of neglected tropical diseases and the people affected will continue to live a life, excluded from society.