27 January 2022 · Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria
Open letter to Bishop David Oyedepo in response to stigmatizing comments about leprosy
The following is an open letter from Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria, an organization of women and children affected by Hansen’s disease, to Bishop David Oyedepo in response to his stigmatizing comments about leprosy.
Dear Bishop David Oyedepo,
As a Nigerian organization of people who have experienced Hansen’s disease, we are dismayed to read media reports where you claim that insulting a prophet can cause leprosy. These statements are inaccurate and further stigmatize people who have experienced Hansen’s disease.
Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, is not a disease of the past. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with Hansen’s disease each year, and there are believed to be more than two million individuals affected by Hansen’s disease who are undiagnosed and untreated. Negative social attitudes towards people who have experienced Hansen’s disease create a serious barrier to treatment and hinder global efforts to interrupt the transmission of the disease.
Hansen’s disease is caused by bacteria and is curable with an antibiotic regimen called multi-drug therapy. Hansen’s disease is not hereditary, and it is not a curse. However, people affected by this disease are still marginalized and excluded from communities around the globe. They are isolated by families and friends. They lose their jobs, marriages, and property, and they experience human rights violations due to disease-related stigma and discrimination.
People who have experienced Hansen’s disease deserve to live dignified and respectable lives. Their diagnosis must not define them, and they must not be excluded from their communities. Importantly, we denounce the misuse of Hansen’s disease as a metaphor, and we decry any use of ‘leprosy’ as a name for the stigmatization, discrimination, and defamation of people. Public figures, authority figures, and religious leaders have the duty to respect the millions of people who have been impacted by Hansen’s disease around the world.
We respectfully ask you not to use Hansen’s disease as a negative metaphor. Rather, we urge your support for those affected by this curable disease. Organizations of people who have experienced Hansen’s disease in Nigeria and around the world fight to eliminate all forms of discrimination and stigma.
Even if you did not intend to discriminate against people who have experienced Hansen’s disease, your words have negatively impacted our efforts and our existence. Our team at Purple Hope Initiative invites you to meet and discuss ways to work together toward the permanent and total elimination of all forms of stigmatization and discrimination against people who have experienced Hansen’s disease.
Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria
About Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria:
Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria (pHIN) is a not-for-profit organization of women and children who are affected by Hansen’s disease and other neglected tropical diseases in Nigeria. Purple Hope Initiative works to restore hope and ensure that human rights are respected. Purple Hope Initiative empowers its community through human rights advocacy, mental wellbeing support and counseling, education, and economic empowerment of women. pHIN is supported by German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA) Nigeria.