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Can I contact someone who is researching Leprosy? If so, can you please answer these questions? What is your current research? How is your research helping with finding a cure or a better understanding of Leprosy? How is this research being funded? What are the future prospects for finding a cure?
Question Date: 2003-02-24
Answer 1:

Leprosy (Hansen's disease) is caused by bacteria and it can be cured with a combination of 3 antibiotics. However, not everyone can afford the treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been providing free treatment since 1991, but not everyone has access to the programs. Other organizations are also trying to provide both medicine and reconstructive surgery.

People with leprosy face a lot of discrimination in some societies, so even if they are perfectly capable of working, they may not be able to get jobs or even go into cities where health care is available. In some countries they have to live in "leper colonies" because other people are afraid of catching the disease. In fact, most of the time, the disease is not contagious.

The United States established a leper colony on Molokai in Hawaii. It was officially closed some time ago, but longtime residents still live there voluntarily. In 1982 I visited a leper colony in India. The people there had basically built a self-sustaining village. They grew their own food, spun their own thread, wove their own cloth, made their own shoes, and used the methane gas from their latrines as a power source. Their standard of living was higher than that of a lot of the people in the nearby city. Still, being told where you can and can't live must be pretty awful.

What do you think: Is it okay for a society to discriminate against some people to protect the health of others?

For more information on leprosy, you might want to visit the WHO web site:
WHO on leprosy

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