TWELVE MILLION LIKE ME
By Marian Curd
TWELVE million people suffering from one of the world's oldest and most defiant diseases, leprosy, are being given new hope as production of new easy-to-take drugs is stepped up and research into this killer illness is intensified.
—New hope because research chemists and laboratories in many parts of the world are spending thousands of pounds testing compounds and their action on leprosy bacteria.
—New hope because of the increasing knowledge and use of sulphone and other new drugs.
—New hope because such as Dr. R. G. Cochrane, Consultant Leprologist and Adviser to the Ministry of Health. is waging a campaign for a training hospital to be opened in this country for doctors willing to specialise in this work, and to found in addition a medical research centre.
CHANGE OF ATTITUDE
—And there's new hope in the psychological field for, in the words of a World Health Office spokesman "In the past decade I have seen leprosy gradually change from a legendary mystic evil whose very name spelled fear, to a disease which is being effectively treated like any other that medicine thoroughly understands".
Who are the people who are today waging more fiercely than ever a battle started thousands of years ago when everything was done to the leper but precious little was done for him.
In days past to be stricken with leprosy was to be condemned to a Iising death. It was to watch one's own bodily decomposition advance until real death came to relieve the suffering of a lifetime.
Today the leprosy sufferer can hose every hope of a cure and of returning to his or her own family —and can in some cases be treated and cured without even leaving the family home.
'This is the case with many of missions in India helped annually by the world-wide Order of Charity whose British branch now numbers over 500 active members (many of them in Malta) and whose army of several thousand associate members is rapidly growing.
"Our aim," secretary Mr. John Southworth told me this week, is twofold. It is It 7 Collect money to help leper hospitals of any denomination. mainly in India, and to help in getting people to overcome prejudice and understand that leprosy is an illness just like any other illness and is generally not contagious."
ORDER OF CHARITY
The Indian government's plan
today. he told me, is to survey the I country area by area taking an area of a hundred or so square miles at Et time. All leprosy sufferers are registered. The next step is to provide mobile medical teams based on a smaller hospital than the oldstyle leper "colonies" to tour the villages at regular intervals giving treatment and leaving supplies of drugs to tide over until the next visit.
In the year which ended February 1963, the Order of Charity in association with the British Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA), sent some £2,865 overseas to 23 hospitals or missions; £1,315 went to Catholic missions, the balance to other leper centres.
The Order was founded some 20 years ago by globe-trotting worker for charity, Raoul Follereau, who has collected more than £500,000 for their work.
Details of membership can be obtained from the Secretary at 9 Grosvenor Crescent, London, W.I.
ST. FRANCIS LEPER GUILD
Standing right behind our missionary Orders and Congregations working in faraway lands to help leprosy sufferers is, of course, St. Francis Leper Guild — the name which springs to mind whenever mention is made of Fr. Damien's day (May 11).
For more than 15 Orders and Congregations and many diocesan priests who are right in the forefront in providing the most up-todate treatment St. Francis Leper Guild in the year ended March 1963, collected almost £19.000 by means of subscriptions, donations, the pennies of schoolchildren. and the covenants of their elders.
Founded in 1895, the guild collected £60 in its first two years. To date more than e223.000 has been sent to assist leprosy sufferers regardless of nationality or creed.
Run from the London (20 The Boltons, S.W.I0) house of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the first world-wide missionary order of women, the Guild is yet another aspect of the work in the fields of education, social and medical, undertaken by this 10.000-Sister Congregation which, Mother St. Peter told me this week, is flourishing in 69 countries from Iceland to the Philippines.
Today. these sisters care for over 8.000 in-patients in 19 leper hospitals; over 131.700 out-patients are treated at 25 leprosy centres. And this. of course, is only one aspect of their work. High on the receiving end of the Guild of St. Francis' yearly handouts are, of course, the missionary orders and congregations so wellknown for their work in all fields. Among those hard at work on the treatment and eradication of leprosy we note the Benedictines, Franciscans, Mill Hill Fathers, the Redemptorists, the Camillans, the Holy Ghost Fathers, the • Verona Fathers, the White Fathers, the Medical Missionaries of Mary, and the Franciscan Missions of the Divine Motherhood,
It is money like this that will pay for wonder-cure sulphone drugs. Drugs like Sulphetrone, product of Burroughs Wellcome. Three grammes daily in take-away tablet form will. in the case of a patient who presents himself in time, cure in a period varying from a few months to several years. His treatment costs about 6d. a day, and when you consider that an average