Health campaigners call for an end to the use of the word leper

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Health campaigners are calling for an end to the use of the word leper, saying the language frequently used by politicians and others during the pandemic has made people with leprosy even more marginalised.

The metaphor of the socially outcast “leper” has been used often, whether in media reports on stigma against early Covid-19 patients or by politicians in Italy and Brazil complaining about being seen as “leper colonies”. Campaigners now want an end to the use of what they call the “L-word”.

“This type of language perpetuates a mindset against people still suffering,” said Mathias Duck, global advocacy manager at The Leprosy Mission, a British charity.

“People affected were already marginalised before the pandemic, and the pandemic has pushed leprosy even further down the priority list.”

According to a UN report presented to its human rights council last week, people affected by leprosy have lost access to treatment, had their drug supplies disturbed, been cut off from work and have died in high numbers from Covid-19.

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