In almost every country where we work, stigma towards leprosy-affected individuals and their families still exists.
It stems from superstitions, religious beliefs, attitudes to physical disfigurement and discriminatory laws and practices.
Many people still believe that leprosy is caused by immoral behaviour and is a curse from the gods. Others believe that it cannot be cured, is highly contagious and is spread through touch.
One of the most harmful aspects of stigma is that people are too ashamed to admit they have the disease. This delays diagnosis and treatment, making the outcome far more serious than it needs to be.
The psychological impacts can be equally as devastating. Leprosy-affected individuals and families are often rejected by their loved ones, excluded from their communities and forced to live in shame and isolation.
Families affected by leprosy find it extremely difficult to lift themselves out of poverty.
Long stays in hospital, disability, exclusion, discrimination, lack of access to education and unemployment exacerbate their already desperate situation.