Tom Bradley

"If existing knowledge about leprosy were conscientiously and persistently applied, this disease could be controlled in our generation and eradicated in the next."
Dr Stanley Browne, 1971



Mycobacterium leprae, stained pink underneath the microscope. Ganta, Liberia 2012

In the last 30 years, after a great deal of effort, leprosy has been brought down from millions of new cases per year to around 250,000 new cases diagnosed per year - officially that is.
In all but a handful of countries it has been declared 'eliminated'. But it has now reached a plateau.

As I delved further into the subject I realised there were many ways to ask and answer the question 'is leprosy eliminated?':

What it means to have a bacteria and be physically unaffected;
Or have gotten rid of the bacteria, yet still have numb patches of skin, and the dangers it can bring... ulcers, clawed hands, drop-feet, lost digits, limbs, sunken noses, blindness...
...and still be at the mercy of stigmitisation from the people around, or perhaps more deadly, stigma from within oneself;

Or even that a country is declared eliminated of leprosy because fewer than 1 in 10,000 people have it - yet in somewhere like India, where the government declared leprosy "eliminated" in 2005, it still means that there are more than 120,000 new cases of leprosy per year.

Or those countries in the world where leprosy detection is barely being done, or the countries where figures are unknown, even 'fiddled' because governments are eager to reach this status of 'Leprosy Eliminated'.

Some of these images show physical impairment or disability due to leprosy. In every case there would be no disability if the disease had been caught in the early stages.

This is an ongoing long-term photographic project, to record and illuminate this issue.


 

I took this photo as this woman was diagnosed with leprosy. I hadn't realised at that moment, I found out after she had gone. She was quiet, not showing her emotions. Whether this meant something or not, I still don't know. Physically this woman should have no problems. Okegbala, Nigeria 2009