For over 3,000 years and continuing into the 21st century, the stigma associated with leprosy has been one of the most persistent and pervasive forms of social injustice that society has forced upon its fellow human beings. Men, women and children of all ages whose lives have been challenged by leprosy have had their most basic human rights denied by virtually every culture and major religion throughout time. Despite the fact that there has been a cure for leprosy for more than 60 years, outdated images and stereotypes persist, resulting in widespread prejudice and discrimination.
In March, 2003, IDEA launched a Global Campaign to Eliminate the Stigma Associated with Leprosy. IDEA has identified nine strategies that have been shown to effectively get rid of the stigma associated with leprosy. We have repeatedly seen, from country to country, that these are the activities that work together to transform the image of leprosy and, consequently, people’s lives.
1. Acknowledge that Stigma Can be Eliminated.
2. Continue to Expand IDEA’s National and International Network of Support.
3. Ensure Adequate Support and Counseling to Enable Individuals to Resolve the Deep Emotional Issues that Continue to Accompany a Diagnosis of Leprosy.
4. Transform the Social Image of Leprosy by Promoting a Positive Image and Emphasizing the Legacy of Creativity and Inspiration.
5. Promote Opportunities for Education and Economic Independence.
6. Promote the Restoration of Family Ties.
7. Respect and Promote the Dignity of the Older Generation of Individuals Affected by Leprosy by Using Their Life Experiences to Effect Social Change.
8. Ensure that Individuals Affected by Leprosy are Accorded Their Rightful Place in Their Own History.
9. Build Bridges Towards Universal Human Rights and Peace through the IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity.
Through these activities, stigma is being replaced with images of Honor, Dignity, Self-Confidence, Respect and Creativity. Social Injustice and Discrimination are being replaced with a concerted Global Effort aimed at the Restoration of Human Rights.