In Pictures: 'My heart lies here'

While some consider leprosy an ancient disease, those with it are still stigmatized and resort to living in colonies.


It is perhaps one of the world's most misunderstood infectious diseases. Believed by many to be both incurable and highly contagious, leprosy is, in fact, neither.

If caught and treated early enough, disability can be averted. But if left untreated, it can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 14 million leprosy patients have been cured in the past 20 years and four million since 2000.

But it has proved harder to eradicate the social stigma surrounding the disease. Many of those with the disease are shunned by their families and communities, and are forced to make a meagre living by begging. Some, in countries such as India where the disease remains endemic, move into colonies, where they construct homes from discarded scraps and often live out their lives with little contact with the families they left behind.

Janardan Yadaz was diagnosed with leprosy in 1978 and moved into the Ashapur colony in India. He has only been home once in the past 30 years. He says: "Ashapur is my home, my heart lies here."