WILLS POINT, TX The last Sunday in January is set aside to observe World Leprosy Day. Gospel for Asia (GFA) has released a Special Report examining the problem of leprosy. Across the globe, leprosy charities and partners join together to raise awareness of this disease that many people believe to be extinct, when in fact around 210,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and we believe millions more people are living undiagnosed, leaving them at risk of disabilities. GFA’s Special Report, Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep It Alive discusses many misunderstandings about the disease, and what the agency is doing to befriend and serve those in afflicted in South Asia. Also known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is treatable if diagnosed in its early stages. If ignored, it will not go away. Rather, it can progress to the point of debilitation and disfiguration.
Caring for those who have leprosy is a particular concern for Gospel for Asia as about 60% of the world’s documented cases occur in South Asia.
The disease is no respecter of age, affecting infants to senior adults. According to the World Health Organization, “the exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known.” The popular belief for centuries has been that leprosy is spread by contact which, along with the stigma of disfiguration, has contributed to the practice of isolating victims within leper colonies. Medical authorities now believe that the disease may be vector-borne.
The Special Report includes information about the development of an effective, multi-drug therapy treatment for leprosy that is has been available worldwide since 1995.
The social stigma can be devastating – perhaps even worse than the disease itself. People with leprosy suffer not only the embarrassment of the loss of digits and limbs but must also endure the loss of family and friends as they are relegated to leper colonies. There, they endure not only their own suffering but are surrounded by others who are likewise abandoned by societal ignorance.
Because it is the social stigma and misunderstandings that most ravage lives today, Gospel for Asia partners believe that eliminating discrimination and false conceptions can help to eliminate the disease altogether.
As far back as 2007, Gospel for Asia-support workers began calling leprosy patients ‘friends’ instead of using terms that served only as reminders of their disease. What started as a handful of men and women pursuing opportunities to care for outcasts is now a ministry that serves 44 leprosy colonies, bringing hope and love to hurting hearts.
GFA provides hot, nourishing meals, regular wound cleansing and medical care, and practical help that includes personal care and household chores that patients are unable to provide for themselves.
The following video will take you on a visit to an actual leprosy colony where you can see the compassion with which GFA representative care for those who have succumbed to the disease.
To learn more, read the GFA Special Report, Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep It Alive
To read more news on leprosy on Missions Box, go here.
- Gospel for Asia Special Report, Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep It Alive
- Lepra, World Leprosy Day
- World Health Organization, World Leprosy Day
- Gospel for Asia, Photo of the Day
- Gospel for Asia, My Visit to a Leprosy Colony