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Group decries stigma against Leprosy Patients

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By Ndidi Chukwu

The Leprosy Mission Nigeria has called for an end to inhumane treatment and lip service to enhance the rights of persons affected by leprosy and their families.

It said the public still call leprosy patients “lepers” which is not acceptable as they would prefer to be called people affected with leprosy of Hansen’s disease, in the society where affected persons suffer shame, low-esteem, and lack access to education and jobs.

“In 2015 the rhetoric on human rights in leprosy must now be translated into practice and action that can change lives,” said Sunday Udo, director of the TLM-Nigeria.

It comes as the group began to facilitate work on domesticating a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution to eliminate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy (PALs) and their families.

As part of its programme in marking World Leprosy Day in Abuja, Udo called for empowerment of PALs to “ensure their rights are upheld and to take every opportunity to raise awareness in the media and society in general that there is no place for discrimination and stigma.”

PALs say stigma against them stop them from resuming their lives or re-entering society even after they are cured.

“Leprosy has become a figure of speech for stigma,” said Hassan Kuka of IDEA, a coalition of PALs.

TLM-Nigeria, which runs colonies where PALs are treated free and provided work, stresses prevention and quick diagnosis to enable therapy.

But it raised concern that leprosy incidence was on the rise and children below 14 years are often infected despite Nigeria’s reaching elimination target.

Nearly one in 10 infections is among children, and disability results in up to 12% of them without prompt treatment.

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