Leprosy Stigma, Community Perception and Health Seeking Behavior Essay

Leprosy stigma, community perception and health seeking behavior Rachel Njeri and Herman Weyenga. Kenya local believers Community perception of disease plays a major role in health seeking behavior relating to that particular disease. Leprosy has been described in social literature including the Bible and the Koran as disease resulting from uncleanness, curse and punishments for sins. A similar view is shared in China where leprosy is considered to be sexually transmitted by contact with a prostitute and a punishment for the moral lapse.

In Africa, leprosy is referred to as ‘ngara’ or ‘lepero’ in Botswana, implying an association with “bad blood”, and as ‘qumtina’ in Ethiopia, denoting the “state of amputation or mutilation” . Another common belief is that Leprosy is hereditary. This belief is prevalent among people in India, Malaysia, China and Africa. Ironically, even in Norway where Hansen identified the leprosy bacilli, the medical profession firmly believed that leprosy was hereditary and promoted the idea of segregation to prevent procreation.

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This belief was strongly held among the Japanese where the greatest discrimination of leprosy patients was reported. In Japan, permanent contraceptive methods were administered to women and men castrated. In India, the Hindus consider deformity resulting from leprosy as divine punishment The concept of heredity is also deeply rooted in Indian culture. The Nepalese community widely held the belief that leprosy was contagious. In Guyana, leprosy was seen as a process of progressive deterioration that could never be cured.

Among the Chinese, facial disfigurement, mutilation of limbs, chronicity and long incubation period caused mystery about its origins, inspiring horror, fear and disgust. Other beliefs and theories prevalent among various cultures attribute leprosy to dirty blood, evil spirits, curses, charms, malnourishment, and eating certain foods. Interestingly these misconceptions are The stigma against leprosy seems to be related to the fact that leprosy deforms and disables but seldom kills, so that those who have been crippled, live on, getting steadily worse, their deformities visible to the whole community.

The chronic symptoms of untreated leprosy often afflict individuals in their most productive stage of life and limit or prevent them from fulfilling their normal roles in society: they may lose their economic independence as a result of losing their jobs, their physical independence as a result of disabilities, their self esteem as a result of social isolation and generally live a lower quality of life. Persons affected by leprosy experience unsympathetic reactions, insults, hate and rejection from society. This is often extended to the families having members suffering from leprosy.


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