Leprosy is a disease, which still strikes fear in the societies as a mutilating, disfiguring, contagious and incurable disease. Because of the horrifying nature of the enigmatic physical disfigurement and since no cure was discovered until the 20th century, leprosy has, for centuries, been a highly stigmatizing disease. Though leprosy is not a disease of the poor, yet it affects poor to a much greater extent because of their social and economic vulnerability. The stigma attached to leprosy leads to loss of employment even before manual labor becomes more difficult due to disability, which often results from late or no treatment. It also leads to exclusion from society, causing physical and emotional distress.
Even to this day, when leprosy is completely curable with MDT (multi drug therapy), some parts of India uphold the belief that leprosy is a divine curse, a punishment of the past sins, and a result of immoral sexual behavior. These beliefs reinforce the image of the ‘leper’ as being physically and morally unclean, to be blamed for contracting the disease and therefore to be ostracized. The repulsive physical image, the fear of infection and the belief that it is incurable are the root causes of the inhuman treatment that is often meted out to those who have leprosy.