How does a person like to be identified? Alzira Rodriguez is clear about how she doesn’t like to be identified. “I don’t want to be known as a ‘former leprosy patient’. We don’t refer to a ‘former TB patient’, do we?” she remarked to the Goodwill Ambassador when he met her recently in Brazil.
Continuing in this vein, she added: “I don’t like it when people refer to me as ‘Alzira — you know, the one with deformed hands.’ I just want to be known as Alzira.”
Alzira is the leader of a branch of IDEA (Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement) in Mato Grosso state. She is — and the description may not please her — a person affected by leprosy. Cured of the disease, she continues to live with its physical after-effects as well as the prejudice and discrimination.
Until such time as society sees only the person and not the disability or the disease from which it sprang, Alzira continues to work for a better quality of life for those who have experienced leprosy; for greater awareness and understanding of Hansen’s disease among the general public and health professionals; and for an end to stigma and discrimination.
She does so as a member of IDEA, an international human rights and advocacy organization comprised primarily of people like her; she does so as a person affected by leprosy, she does so as the mother of six children, she does so as a friend and neighbor. Above all, she does so as Alzira.