The term ‘leper’ was once used to describe a person affected by leprosy but, over the years, the word has become associated with anyone who is outcast, seen as a pariah or someone to be avoided. It has an extremely negative connotation and only adds to the stigma that those affected by the disease face.

Jayashree PK is our Vice Chair of Lepra in India and she has had her own experience of being called a 'leper.'

Jayashree's story

As a young girl I experienced leprosy. I was lucky enough to be diagnosed before any major disabilities were formed and completed treatment. After taking the medication, physically I was cured but, what took longer to deal with was the psychological impact the disease left me with.

I felt the stigma and shame that many do when they are diagnosed with leprosy, but my wonderful family gave me so much support. With this I was able to go on to become a successful chartered accountant but the fact that I had experienced leprosy stuck with me, and the word ‘leper’ stayed with me for a long time...

That was until I decided to give it up.

I had heard it used so many times in conversations and I think it is derogatory to call someone who is affected by the disease a ‘leper’ or even to use that term in conversations to describe an outcast. The word denotes something inhuman – as if the person affected has no place in mainstream society when nobody should be made to feel that way, especially when they have an illness that is entirely curable.

Leprosy is a simple disease, easily treated and of no consequence if detected early. There is no need for a person affected to be ostracised from mainstream society. By titling someone a ‘leper,’ society is stripping that individual of all dignity, of humanity and relegating the person to the dark lanes of despair. We don’t want to be doing that which is why I’m saying we should pledge today to remove the word from society and to let anyone we hear using it know that the word causes much offence.

You can read more about Jayashree's experience here.

Share and inform

We want to reduce this stigma and work towards a world where people know that leprosy is curable and doesn’t have to mean a life of social isolation. So we’re asking you, if you hear it being used in a chat with your friends or in a discussion at work, to let that person know that leprosy still exists and ‘leper’ isn’t a correct term to use. That way, together, we can target the prejudice many affected by leprosy are forced to feel.

Our work overseas

We're doing the same in the countries we work in, India, Bangladesh and Mozambique. By running health education campaigns and telling more people that leprosy is curable and not a curse, this also helps break down the stigma and negative associations that leprosy brings. 

A donation of £11 enables us to send a theatre group to a village where they perform a story that tackles these issues. This has the potential to be seen by up to 500 people and rid communities of that stigma. You can watch the start of one of their performances below.