In this seventy-fourth archive story by Kristian Bertel, we meet an Indian leper man in the city of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
In this photograph we see an Indian man suffering from leprosy on the pavement in Mumbai, India. One of the first noticeable sign of leprosy is often the development of pale or pinkish patches of skin that may be insensitive to temperature or pain and this is sometimes accompanied or preceded by nerve problems including numbness or tenderness in the hands or feet.
In this photograph we see an Indian man suffering from leprosy on the pavement in Mumbai, India. One of the first noticeable sign of leprosy is often the development of pale or pinkish patches of skin that may be insensitive to temperature or pain and this is sometimes accompanied or preceded by nerve problems including numbness or tenderness in the hands or feet.

Indian man with leprosy

Leprosy is one of the least infectious diseases as nearly everyone has some measure of natural resistance against it. Nevertheless, it continues to spread in India, partially due to its extremely long incubation period, which may last as long as thirty years, as well as widespread ignorance and misinformation about the symptoms and effects of the disease and stigma against the disease due to its disfigurement causes its victims to be isolated and shunned.

How many people have leprosy in India?

India is currently running one of the largest leprosy eradication program in the world. Despite this, 120,000 to 130,000 new cases of leprosy are reported every year in India. This is almost 60% of the global total of new cases.

Fear of discrimination with leprosy in India
Secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss, causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as seen in the above photograph from Mumbai because cartilage is absorbed into the body. Leprosy currently affects approximately a quarter of a million people throughout the world, with majority of these cases being reported from India. They may also isolate themselves out of fear of discrimination. Patients may be impacted in every area of their life, including interpersonal relationships, economic security and mental health and wellbeing. Leprosy is also the leading cause of permanent disability in the world and is primarily a disease of the poor. The disease is now readily treatable with multi-drug therapy, which combines three drugs to kill the pathogen and cure the victim. Disability and disfigurement can be avoided if the disease is treated early, while conversely delay in treatment is linked to greater disability. Unfortunately, individuals with leprosy are still shunned, isolated, and stigmatised, leading to the fear of leprosy being worse than the disease itself. Additionally the initial symptoms are not obvious and may easily be mistaken for other conditions such as insect bites or allergic reactions. Patients may consider the disease too minor to warrant a visit to a doctor and fear losing their wages.

Disabilities with leprosy in India
As a photographer and traveler iit is hard to ignore the lepers and their conditions in India and people suffering from severe leprosy-related disabilities face extensive discrimination. Often, the only way they can make money is by begging. Under these conditions, they may mutilate themselves to garner more sympathy and therefore more money. Sufferers may also hide their symptoms or diagnosis from their family or colleagues have difficulty maintaining a job or avoid physical contact with their family. Leprosy colonies exist throughout India and these are typically made up of patients that have moved to the colony from a significant distance away and their children and grandchildren and these colonies have a very strong community bond, formed in reaction to outside discrimination.

Long-term infection with leprosy
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a long-term infection by the bacteria 'Mycobacterium leprae' or 'Mycobacterium lepromatosis'. Initially, a person who is infected does not have symptoms and typically remains this way for five to twenty years. Symptoms with leprosy that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin and eyes and this may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Leprosy is a spreading disease
Leprosy is spread between people, although extensive contact is necessary. Spread is thought to occur through a cough or contact with fluid from the nose of a person infected by leprosy and it is not spread during pregnancy to the unborn children or through sexual contact nd leprosy occurs more commonly among those living in Poverty.

"India is considered the point of origin of leprosy with skeletal evidence of the disease dating to four thousand years ago. The disease is thought to have spread through trade and war to other parts of Asia and other places in the world. In ancient Indian society, individuals suffering from leprosy were alienated because the disease was chronic, contagious, resulted in disfigurement, had no cure at the time, and was associated with sin. In colonial India the government enacted the Leprosy Act of 1898, which institutionalised leprosy victims and separated them based on gender to prevent reproduction. These laws mainly affected the poor because those who were self-sufficient were not obligated to be isolated or seek medical treatment"

Leper man in India
The photographer is reminded by his sights: "- On my first journey to India I encountered an Indian leper man that had his arm smeared into oil and it was back then I got an interest for the topic. Thirty years ago, India contained seventy five percent of the world's leprosy cases", the Photographer says. Leprosy treatment was handled by the National Leprosy Elimination Programme, which was completely separated from other healthcare services and in 2005, this was incorporated into the broader healthcare system, and shortly afterwards, India announced that it had eliminated leprosy as a public health problem. However, this only means that there is less than 1 person in 10,000 infected with the disease and there is a lower percentage of affected individuals, but this number is still enormous in absolute terms and India still makes up almost sixty percent of the world's leprosy cases. Since this announcement, funding for leprosy prevention and education programs has been drastically reduced and the prevalence and rate of infection have remained steady from 2005 to 2015 and there are still significant delays in treatment, both from the patients and the healthcare system itself, due to a lack of knowledge about the disease. Current programs include house-to-house examinations designed to identify hidden cases of leprosy.

Symptoms of leprosy
Many kinds of leprosy are known, but some symptoms are common to them, including runny nose, dry scalp, eye problems, skin lesions, muscle weakness, reddish skin, smooth, shiny, diffuse thickening of facial skin, ear and hand, loss of sensation in fingers and toes, thickening of peripheral nerves and flat nose due to destruction of nasal cartilage. Also, phonation and resonation of sound occur during speech. Often, atrophy of the testes with resulting impotence occurs and there is no recommended test to diagnose latent leprosy in asymptomatic contacts. However few people with latent leprosy went on to develop a positive test.

Read also:  Crippled beggar of India

Read also:  Crippled beggar of India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian man with leprosy in Mumbai. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.