Shaking Leprosy’s Stigma

Leprosy post-exposure prophylaxis, the first major innovation treatment against the disease since multidrug therapy, can prevent cases in those who come into close contact with leprosy patients, Devex reports.
But it’s no magic bullet—and its use is fraught with ethical challenges and questions about its efficacy, warn experts like Lepra’s chief leprologist Diana Lockwood. LPEP doesn’t work on those with leprosy’s most severe form, explained Geoff Prescott, Lepra’s CEO. And, administering the drug relies on those affected by leprosy to identify people they’ve come into close contact with—a problem for a disease that still carries a heavy stigma in the worst-affected countries including India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Stigma’s lingering legacy is apparent in Van Mon, northern Vietnam’s oldest leprosy hospital—a walled off compound that offered refuge to people once shunned by society. Many patients profiled in Jenny Vaughan's AP story chose to stay there, even though the stigma has faded alongside Vietnam's progress curbing the disease.

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