Finally I was cured from leprosy. I felt liberated

“I was only a little boy of thirteen when I got skin sores on my arms – my skin was red. ‘Auntie, my arms look funny,’ I said. She was shocked. We went to a hospital on a different island. The doctor examined me and gave me medication, but that didn’t work. Why didn’t the sores go away? What was I supposed to do?

I grew up to be an adult with terrible insecurities. I thought I had leprosy, but I wasn’t sure. I was ashamed and afraid of being stigmatised. I did not dare tell anybody, not even the woman I married. I numbed myself with booze and kept bad company.

Person affected by leprosy Jacob inside his boat and workplace

I did not dare tell anybody, not even my wife

I went from bad to worse, I felt so alone. My skin turned darker and darker, my fingers were becoming crooked. But I hid it from everybody. If only I had asked for help sooner. If only I had had the guts to share my discomfort. But in my darkest, loneliest hour, my fortune changed.

I was correctly diagnosed. And with the right medication, I was cured

Somebody appeared at my door. ‘I am from the island’s new health centre, I am here to help you.’ My data had been forwarded, and it was not until then that I was diagnosed with leprosy. And with the right medication, I was cured. Finally, I was cured of the disease. I felt liberated.

I used to fish for tuna in the deep waters around the island, but I anticipated better economic chances for myself as a local boat builder and repairman.

Person affected by leprosy Jacob at work

Myself and my family are checked for symptoms of leprosy every year, but I wanted to do more. I am now the chairman of the island’s self-care group. There are thirteen of us, and we all have the experience of leprosy.

At the self-care group we help each other treat our wounds. That includes our invisible wounds

Our little island is now free of stigma

We help health workers find people who have gotten affected by leprosy. Furthermore, we talk with each other about the disease and we help each other treat our wounds. That includes the invisible wounds. By sharing our experiences with the disease, our little island is now free of stigma. Now no one needs to feel ashamed the way I did for so long.