VICTORY FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY LEPROSY
Rupert Haydock, former National Director of The Leprosy Mission for England and Wales, challenged the BBC earlier this year to avoid the use of the term 'leper'. He explained:
"For some years it has been accepted that in order to end stigma and discrimination against people affected by leprosy, The Leprosy Mission and other leprosy and health organisations have avoided using the word 'leper' which carries such negative connotation. It is unfortunate that its use continues in the UK media, impacting on the dignity and human rights of people with the disease."
Mr Yohei Sasakawa, who is the World Health Organisation Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy and the Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of People Affected by Leprosy, said:
"'Leper' is a potent term, laden with negative connotations. Its figurative meaning of an 'outcast' or 'pariah' derives from the habit of segregating people affected by leprosy from their families and communities, often on remote islands, in the past . . . Research has since revealed much. For example, that leprosy is not hereditary and that it is one of the least infectious diseases. Multidrug therapy has proved extremely effective in curing people with leprosy and today individuals who have leprosy are being treated by the general health services of their countries and are no longer isolated from the population."
The BBC has responded encouragingly by amending their online report and reminding all staff to ensure the appropriate terminology is used in the future. They have also amended their style guide.
This is a positive change for people affected by leprosy. Mr Haydock commented:
"I am delighted that we have been able to advocate on behalf of those affected by leprosy and bring about a change."