What are false beliefs about leprosy (Tamil)
There has been a lot of fear and misunderstanding about leprosy. Persons living with leprosy have often been excluded from the community or treated with cruelty. This added to people’s fears.
It is not true that leprosy is a curse from God or that it is caused by evil spirits, witchcraft or a magic, or they have committed sins in their past or are bad persons. Leprosy is not caused by eating certain food or by bathing in river water. It is not hereditary, and children of mothers with leprosy are not born with it.
Instead, leprosy is a disease caused by germs called Mycobacteria leprae. In general, any person can be affected, no matter who they are. You can only get leprosy from a person affected by it who is not getting treatment, but can only be transmitted if you have long and frequent contact with her or him. It is not true, that the disease can be transmitted if you have only touched each other once.
Also, leprosy is curable today with a multi-drug-therapy. It can be treated at home, and a few days after the treatment starts, it can’t be transmitted to others. So a person who is getting the treatment can stay in the community like everyone else. It is not a problem, for example, to eat together or hug each other.
There is no reason to reject, exclude or refuse people to participate in social life in the family or community, in religious festivals or other activities. For this reason there is no need for a divorce.
A person getting early treatment can continue schooling or working. They can live in peaceful mental state and lead the life they want with their families in the community. Finally, if you start the treatment early, you can recover completely and will have no impairments of the body.
But in many communities these false beliefs are still widespread. This is why persons affected with leprosy still have a great fear in admitting early signs of leprosy and to ask for a treatment. But if the person does not get a treatment, long-term damage appears. Also, the disease continues to spread from those who are not yet treated to others. This way, the myths and fear about leprosy are kept alive.
At the same time, a person affected by leprosy often needs to handle a lot of issues. As the fear in the communities is still widespread, the person faces discrimination, social rejection or social exclusion leading to mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. If you are affected by this, don’t be afraid. It is not true that this means that you are crazy. Many people in this situation feel the same and you can get support. Please talk to a health worker and ask for psychosocial support.