There are many myths and misconceptions about leprosy. As members of the medical profession, we have the first responsibility to set the record straight.
Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease. It is not spread by casual contact. It is curable with antibiotics that kill the bacteria and stop the disease from spreading. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment help prevent the onset of disability and deformity associated with leprosy. There are no medical grounds for isolating a person with the disease.
Yet people with leprosy continue to face social discrimination, even after they are cured. Whole families are marginalized, sometimes with devastating results.
Drugs can cure leprosy, but only greater public awareness can end the stigma it attracts.
Without the social stigma, more people would come forward for treatment. New cases would be detected sooner and be less likely to result in disability. The burden of leprosy in the world would be reduced.
We affirm the right of people affected by leprosy to receive treatment at any hospital. We call for an end to discrimination against them and their families. We support their right to live in dignity as full members of the community with equal access to opportunities and enjoying all their human rights.
(Endorsed by members of the World Medical Association and launched in Sao Paulo, Brazil on 30 January 2012.)