Diana, Princess of Wales
(1961 – 1997)
Diana Princess of Wales was Patron of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales from 1990 until her untimely death in 1997. Princess Diana made huge strides in tackling the stigma surrounding leprosy by touching those affected by the disease. She brought the plight of leprosy-affected people to the world’s attention and dispelled one of the myths surrounding it – that it can be passed on by touch – by visiting hospitals and touching patients.
In November 1989, Princess Diana visited Sitanala Leprosy Hospital in Indonesia, against the advice of officials and the press. She was filmed sitting on the beds of leprosy patients, shaking their hands and touching their bandaged wounds.
The Leprosy Mission wrote to thank Princess Diana for highlighting the problem of leprosy and asked her to become its Patron, which she accepted.
As Patron, Princess Diana visited The Leprosy Mission’s hospitals and projects in India, Nepal and Zimbabwe.
In a bid to fully dedicate herself to her chosen charities, Princess Diana decided to reduce her patronage of more than 100 charities down to just six in 1996. The Leprosy Mission was the only international development charity she retained.
She said of the disease: “It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed.”
The Diana Princess of Wales Health Education and Media Centre opened in Noida, just outside New Delhi in India, in November 1999. Established by a grant from the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, its purpose is to promote the rights, dignity and inclusion of people affected by leprosy and disability into Indian society.
This advocacy work is done through media and education. Billboard posters and radio adverts are created to encourage people with early symptoms of leprosy to seek medical help before they develop life-long disabilities. They advise people affected by leprosy of their rights while offering them specialised medical care and practical help with job training so they can look after themselves and their families.