Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF) was established in 1974 with the goal of eradicating Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, from the world.
Hansen’s disease is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae that had been
around since ancient times. When infected, a person may experience numbness of the hands and
feet as the disease affects peripheral nerves, or leaves various abnormalities on the skin. Without
early and appropriate treatment, the disease may cause aftereffects such as loss of sensation or
deformities. Today, treatment is available and Hansen’s disease is no longer incurable. However, the
stigma and discrimination associated with the disease are deeply rooted in societies, blocking the
proliferation of proper knowledge and understanding. If a person is not diagnosed and treated at an
early stage, it can create a negative chain. For example, one may become disabled, lose one’s job,
become alienated and attract further prejudice.