The effects of leprosy on men and women: a gender study

Nursing School of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paolo, Brazil


Publication details

Publication date: 1997
WHO reference number: WHO/TDR/GTD/RP/97.2
Number of pages: 17



This study investigates the impact of leprosy on men and women in a sample of 202 leprosy patients in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. The study found that leprosy exacerbated existing gender inequalities. The diagnosis caused an intensely negative emotional reaction among sexes, but self-stigmatization was greater among women. Women also expressed greater concern than men about their physical appearance and more often refrained from social activities. The economic activities women of women were also more severely affected, both within and outside at home. Women hid the disease more from their families, but once they had reported for treatment, they were slightly more likely to complete treatment regimens than men. Although the majority of all patients were on multidrug therapy (MDT), a slightly higher proportion of men were on MDT. Women were more concerned about the side effects of MDT in relation to alteration in skin pigmentation. The study demonstrates how a gender approach can improve understanding of the constraints facing men and women in relation to leprosy and it makes useful recommendations for health providers and the families of leprosy patients.