As a sector, we've been burying our heads in the sand and hoping that the negative press and public opinion will soon subside but it's been a year and the angst and anguish doesn't seem to be getting any better. The longer there is a misconception about the work we do, the fewer funds there are being brought in and, as a result, fewer lives are being changed.
In the UK, when you're sick you go to the doctor and expect a swift and accurate diagnosis. It is rare to be told that your symptoms are unheard of or to be given a completely incorrect diagnosis. In many countries though, this is commonplace, especially when it comes to lesser known diseases like leprosy and lymphatic filariasis.
Women and girls face discrimination due to gender, potential disabilities and stigma - a triple jeopardy. According to UNDP, girls and women affected by leprosy make up some of the world's poorest and most marginalised groups, disproportionately affected by poverty, illiteracy and lack of education which act as barriers to seeking health treatment. Women and girls with leprosy and those affected by other neglected tropical diseases have the right to health care and the barriers to that stop this must be addressed.
This Sunday was World Leprosy Day 2013, but few people are likely to take notice. Few might even know that leprosy still exists today. But it does: it affects more than 15 million people across the world and each year nearly a quarter of a million new cases are detected: that is almost one person diagnosed every two minutes - the time to read this blog post.