Senior Pastor, House of Living Hope, Dr. Patrick Aniah, has lamented about stigmatisation of people suffering some disease, like leprosy, in work places.
“In the early years of the HIV epidemic, those who worked with the disease were stigmatised and suffered discrimination and even threats from other physicians. Discrimination till plagues victims in Nigeria,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Director/Founder of the Voice of Humanitarian Aid Foundation, a support group for persons affected by leprosy and their family members, Evangelist Franca Emekobum, admonished that without renewed collaborated efforts to tackle leprosy, thousands of boys and girls might be at risk towards developing lifelong disabilities.
Emekobum said there was urgent need for government to find and treat people affected by leprosy, especially children, stating that with early diagnosis leprosy could be cured.
“In Nigeria, people with leprosy are deliberately avoided and are unable to find jobs. They are even refused treatment due to others› fear of contracting the disease. Leprosy is now a social disease,” she said.
Also, the state Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control supervisor, representing Ikeja Local Government Area, Dr. Oladimeji Joseph Olasunkanmi, said leprosy was caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacterium.
According to him, “it first affects the skin, then nerves and muscles, and causes permanent disfigurement if not treated. It is not very contagious and has a long incubation period, making it difficult to know when and where it was contracted. It is more likely to strike children than adults, but can be effectively treated with multi-drug therapy provided free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since the 1990s.”
He said the state government had initiated a programme whereby health officials do directly observed treatment short course (DOTS) services provided to fight the spread of the scourge.
Olasunkanmi said: “People should come for diagnosis immediately they detect more than five patches in their body, as early detection prevents disabilities.
“Leprosy has long been seen as the epitome of stigmatisation and has become a metaphor for degradation. Stigma remains a very real problem for those affected by the disease and a major challenge for implementation of effective public health interventions but believe with the right information people orientation would change and people should be ready to accept victims back to the society. People with leprosy avoid treatment because of stigma.”
He said Nigerians should understand and begin to see people affected by the stigma as social agents.