ECUMENICAL NEWS INTERNATIONAL
Combating the stigma of leprosy is as important as fighting the disease, says a Christian organization in India which is trying a new form of therapy for those living with an infectious disease that has afflicted humankind for millennia.
"Leprosy-affected people are often treated as useless people to be banished from the society," said Harold Williams, communications officer of The Leprosy Mission (TLM) India.
However, a pilot art workshop held here for people with leprosy and their families has demonstrated that people living with leprosy "can be as creative as others," Mr. Williams said.
The mission hopes to replicate a workshop held in October as a program in its leprosy centres throughout India. With 31 hospitals and 41 leprosy centres, TLM India helps 250,000 patients a year.
India accounts for 70 per cent of the world's 673,000 registered leprosy cases, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics for 2000.
In 1999, the country detected 538,000 new cases of the disease, which is found mostly in poor. regions of the world, according to WHO.
Long considered an incurable disease that made social outcasts of its sufferers, the infection today, with proper drug therapy, can be halted within a year. …