STIGMA AND THE MANAGEMENT OF LEPER IDENTITY IN ASKIRA/UBA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF BORNO STATE, NIGERIA

STIGMA AND THE MANAGEMENT OF LEPER IDENTITY IN ASKIRA/UBA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF BORNO STATE, NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

Leprosy also known as Hansen’s disease, unlike most diseases, attracts a significant level of discrimination. Stigma attached to the disease negatively affects individuals infected with leprosy. This study sought to understand stigma and the management of leper identity in Askira/Uba Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigeria. The objectives of this study are; to determine the prevalence of leprosy in Askira/Uba Local Government Areas of Borno State, to identify the public perception of major causes of leprosy in Askira/Uba, to examine stigma attached to leprosy and the major factors contributing to leprosy stigma in Askira/Uba, to ascertain the effects of stigma on individuals infected with leprosy in Askira/Uba, to identify the coping strategies adopted by individuals infected with leprosy in Askira/Uba and to proffer suggestions on how to mitigate the effect of stigmatization of leprosy in Askira/Uba. Goffman’s theory of stigma served as the theoretical framework of the study. Qualitative and Quantitative data were collected for the study. Quantitative data were generated from two hundred and nine (209) questionnaires retrieved from sampled survey respondents. The qualitative data were generated from ten (10) in-depth interviews and three (3) focus group discussions. The findings of the study revealed that, there is high rate of leprosy in Askira/Uba LGA. The public perceptions on the major causes of leprosy are:   contact                with              an         infected           person,     environmental              conditions                           (dirt)             and inheritance/genetics. Factors that contribute to leprosy stigmatization were; discrediting beliefs and misconceptions regarding the causation and transmission of leprosy, fear of transmission and misconceptions regarding the incurability and high infectiousness of leprosy. The effects of stigma on individuals infected with leprosy were: social disengagement/isolation, loss of status and economic hardship. The coping strategies adopted to mitigate the effect of leprosy stigmatization include: spiritual remedies, excessive consumption of drugs, social detachment and finally migration. Based on these findings, the following recommendations were made; provision of more health facilities and drugs at the ward levels by the Government and regular seminars/workshops in the local government to sensitize the people more about leprosy causes, transmission and curability as well as the need for positive attitude toward individuals infected with leprosy.

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

The disease of leprosy among other types of diseases has been described as a disease that

destroys not only the body but the soul (Olawale, 2013).The disease has afflicted humanity

for a long time. It has once affected every continent and it has left behind a terrifying

image in history and human memory of mutilation, rejection and exclusion from society.

Since ancient times, leprosy has been regarded by many communities as contagious,

mutilating and incurable with accompanying stigma that has adverse consequence for

leprosy patients (WHO, 1996).

Leprosy or Hansen‘s disease is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by mycobacterium

leprae, an acid fast, rod – shaped bacillus principally affecting the peripheral nerve,

mucosa of the respiratory tract and the skin of human being (Ryan, 2004 in Ajibade et al,

2015:1298). Hence, victims of Leprosy often suffer physical disability and social stigma

which prevents them from seeking medical treatment and often thwarts public health

intervention to curb further spread of the disease. Worldwide distribution of leprosy in

2003 revealed that two to three million people are estimated to be permanently disabled

because of leprosy disease with India having the highest number of cases, Brazil as second

and Burma as the third (WHO, 2003; Olawale, 2013).

The social stigma, alienation, discrimination and violence against sufferers of leprosy are

attitudes that have continued through the ages up to the 20th century and these still exist,

1


though in a diluted form. For instance, in Japan; the ―no leprosy patients in prefecture‖


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