The Ex-Patients: Living With Leprosy in Vietnam

32 images Created 6 Apr 2011

It's about an hour ride from Saigon to Ben San, one of many leprosy centers in Vietnam. On the way, I chat with Dr. Hai, the current director of the center, and learn an interesting fact. I ask questions about the patients, and he corrects me. "Actually, we don't have any leprosy patients here. We call them ex-patients." The bacterial skin disease was totally wiped out here more than ten years ago he goes on to explain to me. Yet, referring to those in his care as such is both a correct statement, and a misnomer at the same time. Yes, leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is treatable and with antibiotics and other treatments can and has been eradicated. But its effects, both physical and social, last a lifetime. Not different from any other countries where it claims victims, lepers in Vietnam are essentially cast from their homes and from society, generally never to return. Ben San, among many other similar places in Vietnam, are both hospitals to treat those with lingering effects, and refuges where those who are well enough, live with alone or their families in a safer and more comfortable environment than living at large outside its gates.These images were made on several trips to Ben San in the south and Van Mon village in the north, two of many such places in the country, that hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to visit as well.
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