Joao Falo lives in Pante Makassar in Oecusse, the district of Timor Leste where most leprosy is found. He is aged 48, and he has two sons and three daughters, all of primary school age.
Joao first noticed the signs of leprosy about two years ago. There were some red patches on his arms and legs, and his hands and feet became numb and started to feel weak. Because of the numbness in his feet he developed a wound on his right foot that refused to heal. He didn’t understand what was happening. He was scared to tell others about the patches or the numbness or the wound, so he tried to keep it a secret.
Providentially for Joao, TLM’s Better Health Project had conducted a leprosy screening programme at the school where he worked as a security guard. One of the bright young students, on receiving training on the signs and symptoms of leprosy, recognised that Joao had signs of leprosy and so she told her father, who was friends with Joao. This student’s father then talked to Joao and helped him visit the local health clinic where his diagnosis was confirmed and he started on a 12-month course of multidrug therapy.
When Joao found out he had leprosy, he was afraid because he didn’t know what it was or what it meant for his future. He was afraid he was going to die, because by this point he had many skin patches and the ulcer on his foot had got worse. But through TLM’s Better Health project, he received training on self-care and learned that leprosy is curable. He found it tough after he commenced multidrug treatment because he had a severe skin reaction, but he completed his treatment. He still has numbness in his hands and feet, but without the support from TLM this may have progressed further into disability.
Argusto, a TLM field worker, also talked to Joao’s boss, the principal of the school, to make sure that he wasn’t discriminated against because of his condition. The principal also agreed to support Joao in his treatment.
Joao is grateful to The Leprosy Mission for enabling him to be free from fear of leprosy. "I’m not afraid anymore," he says. "I’m happy because I’m alive! Having good health for me and my family is my priority in life. Please continue to support leprosy work because it helps people like me get better!"