Adi Yosep, project manager of the ASEC-TNF initiative on leprosy and human dignity, was diagnosed with leprosy when he was 18. He developed the same symptoms as his mother some years before him, although his parents had kept the true nature of her illness from him.
"When I was first diagnosed with the disease, I was scared and confused," he said. "I didn't know much about leprosy. Most of all, I was frightened that my friends would distance themselves from me, that I would not be able to lead a normal life."
Through a university teacher, he was put in touch with The Leprosy Mission International and began to learn more about the disease. He also took advantage of the free treatment available to persons with leprosy and was completely cured with multidrug therapy.
He was one of a number of people to start PerMaTa, an advocacy group to empower people affected by leprosy, raise awareness of the disease, and tackle the issue of stigmatization. The ASECTNF Project will build on these efforts.
"People with leprosy have very low selfesteem. They are stigmatized by their community. We seek to develop their confidence," he says. "The public needs to know that leprosy is curable and that people with the disease should not be feared. Those with the disease need to know that free treatment is available. And especially, everybody needs to know that leprosy is not a curse."