Coming in from the cold

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:508

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  1. Michael Leidig
  1. Tichilesti

    The residents of Europe's last remaining colony for people with leprosy are being integrated back into society with help from the EU and lobbying from their own community.Michael Leidig reports

    A Romanian colony for people with leprosy that for decades communist officials denied existed has been successfully reintegrated into society, thanks to a campaign funded by the European Union to lift barriers within the local community.

    The hospital, in the marsh-lands of the River Danube's delta at Tichilesti, is a legacy of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. Leprosy was seen as an affliction of the decadent West, to be hidden from public view. And the regime had had the colony erased from maps because Marxist society had no place for such imperfection.

    In reality, more than 200 people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in the small valley. Now, there are only 23 patients left and, thanks to the efforts of some of the residents, local health officials, and the European Union, they are now living in vastly improved conditions.

    One of those remaining is 73 year old Cristache Tatulea, who has become a spokesman for the group and unofficial mayor of Tichilesti's leprosy patients. He and others, including health officials, have been opening up the colony in recent years, arranging visits from local …

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