Purpose: Although leprosy is completely curable with multidrug therapy, it is unfortunate that the stigma attached to leprosy persists even today. Fear of social exclusion prevents disclosure of the disease to the family and community. This study aimed to evaluate the extent of disclosure of disease among women affected by leprosy in a tertiary referral hospital in Chhattisgarh State, India.
Method: A qualitative study was conducted with 57 women affected by leprosy who reported at a tertiary referral hospital in Champa, Chhattisgarh State. The respondents were 18 years of age or older, and had completed multidrug therapy for leprosy. They were asked whether the disclosure of disease had affected their interactions with family, neighbours and community members.
Results: Of the 57 women, 48 (84%) had disclosed their disease to their family, 17 (30%) to their neighbours and 13 (23%) to the community members. Thirty women (53%) reported that they experienced problems after revealing the ailment to their family, friends and neighbours. The qualitative analysis found that negative behaviour towards people affected by leprosy still persists in the community. Consequently, women affected by leprosy try to hide their disease due to fear of negative community reactions.
Conclusion: This study emphasises the need to spread awareness about the disease and its transmission, by educating the people affected by leprosy, their families and the community. This should be a continuous process in order to reduce or remove the stigma and discrimination against women affected by leprosy, in particular.