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Luduo - Leprosy Village in China

Photographer: Diego Azubel

 

Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, which damages the skin and the peripheral nervous system. Hansen's disease became curable in 1941, and nowadays victims can be easily treated with a multi-drug treatment (MDT) for six to twelve months. When diagnosed and treated early, the disease is not disabling and leaves no marks at all. Yet, despite the disease having been easily curable for decades, it remains the most misunderstood human infectious disease, and the stigma associated with it, as well as the psychological and social effects on sufferers, may be harder to deal with than the disease itself.

 

For centuries, due to Hansen's disease being poorly understood, very disfiguring, and with no known treatment available, many cultures saw it as a curse or a punishment from the gods, leaving only priests or holy men able to treat it. Those infected by it were sent away to live in isolation in colonies with other infected people.

 

In China, most patients were quarantined in mountain villages or islands with little access at all. The majority died in these villages without ever seeing their relatives again, even after they were cured. Close to 80 people affected by Hansen's disease were quarantine in Luduo village when it was first established, but now there are only seven. Five of them, sent to Luduo when they had the disease, and the other two are men who were born in Luduo after their mothers were quarantined while pregnant. As a monthly stipend, residents of Luduo receive each less than 100cny (12 euro) from the local government.

 

According to HANDA, an NGO that helps people affected by the disease, hundreds of such villages still exist in the country, where the last surviving affected people, cured years ago, remain isolated, unable to join the society they were once a part of.