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35% in Japan prejudiced against ex-leprosy patients: survey

Lawyers representing families of former leprosy patients seeking damages from the state hold up signs in front of the Kumamoto District Court in June 2019 after winning the case. | JIJI

A health ministry opinion survey has found some 35% of respondents have prejudiced or discriminatory attitudes toward former leprosy patients and their families.

"Knowledge about the issue of leprosy has not sufficiently spread in society," the ministry said in a report summing up the survey. "Prejudice and discrimination (against former patients and their families) still exist, so the situation is serious."

The online survey was conducted last December and received valid responses from 20,916 people. This was the first survey by the ministry asking participants whether they have prejudice or discriminatory attitudes against former leprosy patients and their families.

Around 90% of the respondents said they know or have heard of leprosy, and only 9.8% said they do not know the infectious disease at all.

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