Knowledge, Beliefs and Perception of Leprosy

Sukhbir Singh, Anil K Sinha, BG Banerjee, Nidhi Jaswal



Purpose: For intervention to be effective, it is essential that the knowledge, beliefs and perception of a specific social group are taken into account. This is particularly true of leprosy where the problems of social stigma and ostracism are more prominent than the disease itself. There are many misconceptions about the cause, methods of transmission, and treatment. The main objectives of the study were to examine the socio-demographic profile of persons with leprosy and to explore their knowledge, beliefs and perception about the disease and its initial symptoms, within a specific socio-cultural milieu.


Method: Semi-structured interviews were held with a persons with leprosy at various clinics and care-homes for affected persons in and around Chandigarh, India. Those who had completed their treatment and those who were still undergoing treatment were included in the study. Data collection was done through case studies and in-depth interviews.


Results: The name of the disease varied across different geo-cultural zones. Many respondents who were afflicted with only red patches and had no ulcers, believed that they suffered from a skin disease which would turn into leprosy if proper medication was not received. The perception of 64.9 % of the respondents was that leprosy resulted from supernatural causes like God’s punishment, karma, and sin.


Conclusion: There is a need to educate persons with leprosy and their families about the etiology of the disease.


doi 10.5463/DCID.v23i4.179


Leprosy; knowledge; beliefs; perception

Full Text:



Babb LA (1983). Destiny and responsibility: Karma in popular Hindusim. In karma: An anthropological inquiry (eds CF Keyes & EG Daniel): University of California. Berkeley; 163-181.

Bekri W, Gebre S, Mengiste A, Saunderson PR, Zewge S (1998). Delay in presentation and start of treatment in leprosy patients: A case-control study of disabled and non disabled patients in three different settings in Ethiopia. Int J Lepr; 66: 1-9.

Bryceson A, Pfaltzgraff RE (1990). Leprosy (3rd ed.).New York: Churchill Livingstone; 240.

Helman CG (1994). Culture, health and illness: An introduction for health professionals. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford; 107–108.

International Leprosy Association (2002). Report of the Technical Forum. Lepr Rev.; 73: 58–9.

MacLachlan M (1997). Culture and Health. Trinity College, Wiley, Dublin; 316.

Mankar MJ, Joshi SM, Velankar DH, Mhatre RK, Nalgundwar AN (2011). A comparative study of the quality of life, knowledge, attitude and belief about leprosy disease among leprosy patients and community members in Shantivan Leprosy Rehabilitation Centre, Nere, Maharashtra, India. Glob Infect Dis; 3(4): 378-382. PMid:22224003 PMCid:3249995.

Myint T, Thet AT, Htoon MT, Win M (1992). A comparative KAP study of leprosy patients and members of the community in Hlaing and Laung-Lon townships. Ind J Lepr; 64: 313–324. PMid:1431320.

Noorden SK (1995). Eliminating leprosy as a public health problem: Progress and prospects. Bulletin of World Health Organisation; 73: 1–6.

Prabhakara Rao V, Rao IR, Palande DD (2000). Socio-economic rehabilitation programme of LEPRA India – Methodology, results and application of needs-based socio-economic evaluation. Lepr Rev; 71: 466–471.

Srinivasan H (1991). Social sciences research and social action for better leprosy control: Papers and other documents presented at IAL National Workshop at Karigiri; 14-15 Mar, Indian Association of Leprologists.

Srivastava A, Srivastava JP, Saxena SC, Srivastava VK, Nigam S, Srivastava P (2011). Leprosy a disease - Knowledge and perception of registered leprosy patients. Indian J. Prev. Soc. Med.; 42(2): 204-209.

Tipping G, Segall M (1995). Healthcare seeking behaviour in developing countries: An annotated bibliography and literature review. Development Bibliography 12. Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University; 21.

Van de Weg N, Post EB, Lucassen R, De Jong JTVM, Van Den Broek J (1998). Explanatory models and help-seeking behaviour of leprosy patients in Adamawa State, Nigeria. Lepr Rev; 69: 382-389. PMid:9927811.

Weiss MG, Doongaji DR, Siddhartha S, Wypij D, Pathare S, Bhatawdekar M, Bhave A, Sheth A, Fernandes R (1992). The explanatory model interview catalogue (EMIC) contribution to cross- cultural research methods from a study of leprosy and mental health. British Journal of Psychiatry; 819-830.

World Health Organisation (1997). Seventh report - WHO technical report series 874. WHO Expert Committee on leprosy, Geneva.

World Health Organisation (2012). Leprosy: Fact Sheet. Available: [Accessed in September, 2012].


Copyright (c) 2015 Sukhbir Singh, Anil K Sinha, BG Banerjee, Nidhi Jaswal

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Supported by:


© Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development