When Kashi Aryal contracted leprosy at the age of seven, he was banished from his home and forced to live in an animal shed.
In his village in Nepal, leprosy was seen as a curse. Kashi was not allowed to play with other children and the village water tap was strictly out-of-bounds.
“The villagers said other people will also catch leprosy, so they should not keep me here,” Kashi said.
“I was hurt because I was not allowed to stay in my own home with the people I love.”
Last month Dr Famkima Darlong, head of healthcare for The Leprosy Mission Trust India, told St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Berwick that the disease is not confined to the pages of the New Testament but still blights the lives of hundreds of thousands of people like Kashi.
“A popular perception is that leprosy is an ancient disease that was eradicated many years ago. But the reality is that leprosy is still prevalent worldwide, particularly in India,” Famkima said.
A person is diagnosed with leprosy every two minutes, with India making up 60 per cent of all new cases.
However, leprosy is completely curable with a course of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), usually taken over the course of 12 months. Within 48 hours of commencing treatment, a person is no longer infectious.
When Kashi visited The Leprosy Mission Anandaban Hospital in Nepal, he was treated with love and compassion by the hospital staff, who bound his wounds and provided MDT treatment.
Eventually he even began working as a nurse and became manager of the hospital’s self-care unit, teaching people how to clean their wounds and protect themselves from further disability.
Dr Famkima, who is a member of the Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India and oversees 14 leprosy hospitals in that country, believes this work is “a calling from God for His glory”.
“The Leprosy Mission has been caring for people affected by leprosy in India for 145 years and Australians have been faithfully praying and providing for the mission for many of these years,” Famkima said.
“The good news is we are making an impact, and leprosy is now curable. And, if leprosy is detected and treated early, the likelihood of disability is greatly reduced.”
Your congregation can help Kashi and Famkima help end stigma and rejection for people affected by leprosy by hosting a World Leprosy Sunday event or a Cuppa for a Cure.
Visit www.worldleprosysunday.org.au or call 1800 LEPROSY (1800 537 767).
• Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s Disease, named after Norwegian scientist Gerhard Armauer Hansen who first identified the bacteria that causes leprosy.
• Often the first sign of leprosy is a patch (or patches) on the skin. If left untreated, leprosy can attack and destroy the nerves in the body, especially in the hands, feet and face, resulting in loss of feeling and/or function. This is why early diagnosis and treatment is so important.
• There are 152 laws throughout the world that discriminate against people affected by leprosy.
• Leprosy is most common in places of poverty. Overcrowding and poor nutrition means people’s immune systems are not strong and they are less able to fight the disease.
• Leprosy affects mental health. According to the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations, up to 50 per cent of people affected by leprosy experience depression or anxiety.
• Even when people affected by leprosy are cured, stigma remains an obstacle to resuming regular life. Education can make a real difference in breaking down the stigma of leprosy.