"Leprosy changed my career", Bilal uttered with a sigh.
Md. Bilal Miah is 38 years old, and from the Moulvibazar district of northeastern Bangladesh.
Since his father’s death, he became the family’s main earner, helping to support his two daughters, wife, and brothers.
Working at a renowned local school as a night guard since 2007, Bilal enjoyed his job, which gave him an enormous sense of pride and financial stability.
Early in 2022, he found some white patches on both his arms, on his back, and had noticed he was losing sensation in his left foot. The school authority asked him to go to the doctor, who soon diagnosed him with multibacillary leprosy.
He started multidrug therapy (MDT) immediately but during his treatment, he experienced a reaction to Clofazimine, one of the component antibiotics of MDT. Skin discolouration is a relatively common and entirely temporary side-effect of Clofazimine. Although not considered to be a serious physical side-effect, it is an unfortunate complication which can lead to even further discrimination for people affected.
As a result of his diagnosis, the school authority insisted he took six months of forced leave from his employment until he finished his treatment. After the treatment programme was complete however, he realised that the school had recruited a new replacement for his position. Knowing he was no longer infectious; he was shocked to have lost his job and pleaded to be reinstated.
With support from Lepra’s Proyash project, Bilal is receiving ongoing treatment and support for his emotional health and has found temporary employment as an auto-rickshaw driver. The team continues to work with local government and health authorities to advocate for Bilal, and he remains hopeful that he will soon be able to return to his much loved job.
The Proyash project is run in partnership with Canadian charity Effect Hope. Click here to find out more.