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Cured Leprosy Patients to Fight Social Stigma

Jharkhand is engaging people cured of leprosy to fight the stigma of the disease. //

According to official figures, the prevalence rate of leprosy in the state has fallen to 1.56 percent in 2005, from 14.7 percent in 2001.

However, the 'Lok Doots' (Messenger of People), as the cured are called, have been roped in since leprosy is on the rise again.

For instance, the prevalence rate in Ranchi has gone up to 1.60 percent between April and August, as against 1.16 last year. In West Singhbhum district, this is 3.78 percent now, against 3.12 last year.

In Jharkhand, there are more than 30,000 leprosy patients.

The 'Lok Doots' will visit different parts of the state, including the inaccessible areas where Maoist guerrillas call the shots, and create awareness among the masses.

The messengers will spread the message that the disease is fully curable and the patients should not be ill treated by family members or the society at large.

"We have started the job by engaging the cured patients. They move from one place to another to create awareness among the masses about the disease and how the affected can lead a normal life," said B.B. Singh, a leprosy officer.

The 'Lok Doots' cite their own examples to show how they are back to normal life and are staying with their families after being cured of the disease.

They also tell people that the disease is not hereditary and hence cannot be transmitted to the next generation.

"The 'Lok Doots' are doing their job, and we are hopeful that the prevalence rate will go down in coming days," Singh said.

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