Statement in response to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – Monday 4 June

The Leprosy Mission is astounded by a senior academic at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s comment on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that leprosy no longer exists.

Professor Val Curtis, Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, used an example of a person’s response to seeing somebody who has lost a thumb as causing them to worry they could catch leprosy from them. Professor Curtis then continued “of course there is no leprosy anymore”.

This was after Professor Curtis had spoken about improving hygiene systems in India where more than half the world’s leprosy cases are diagnosed each year. Leprosy is a disease of poverty and poor housing, including overcrowding and poor sanitation, acts as a breeding ground.

In fact every year around 250,000 people are newly diagnosed with the disease, and three million people worldwide are living with permanent disability as a result of leprosy. Professor Curtis’s comment only goes to compound the ignorance and stigma surrounding leprosy that The Leprosy Mission works so tirelessly to overcome globally.

Many passionate and loyal supporters of The Leprosy Mission’s lifechanging work heard the interview and contacted staff at The Leprosy Mission which has  telephoned Professor Curtis’s colleague at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Diana Lockwood, Professor of Tropical Medicine.

Professor Lockwood, who diagnoses all of the UK’s leprosy cases, around a dozen each year, said: “There are a quarter of million new cases of leprosy diagnosed and treated globally each year and evidence points to this being the tip of the iceberg due to people not coming forward for treatment due to ignorance and stigma surrounding the disease.”

The Leprosy Mission has asked the BBC to correct such a gaping error which was broadcast to an audience of more than 11 million people.