The Loudest Whisper – scars of leprosy in Brazil
At the beginning of 2007, only three countries in the world had not yet eliminated Leprosy as a public health problem. Among them, Brazil occupies a sad and shameful first place, totalizing 13 times more cases of the disease than the other two countries, Nepal and Timor-Leste, combined. During almost all of the 20th century, the treatment for the disease was understood as the total confinement of patients in leprosaria. These people were taken from their homes and families, many of them under gunpoint by the so-called Sanitary Police, and locked up in small isolated communities, usually forever. After 1976, these colonies were partially or totally deactivated and their patients were abandoned without any policy for social reintegration. Without any place else to go, they stay around these archaic structures, dying one by one, slow and silently. Some of these abandoned communities still live under this veil of political and social irresponsibility, as human evidences of a tragedy perpetrated by our fear and ignorance. The story of these abandoned people has been under-reported in Brazil – and in the rest of the world – for years, maybe due to the cruel aspect of the disease, maybe due to society’s difficulty in confronting its own indifference. Regardless the reason, their death cannot be considered solution for a situation that the established social order seems not to be able to fix. Since October 2005, I have been following this story, trying to depict the condition of these people in Brazil. My objective consists in producing an undeniable document of a recent past that cannot be forgotten.