Overcoming the odds Hydrocele is a symptom often linked to lymphatic filariasis (LF), affecting men. Swelling occurs in the scrotum which causes discomfort, pain and can affect self-image. Rajni Kant Singh, our Projects Co-ordinator in Bihar, India explains his experience with Hydrocele and how Lepra is working to help men affected. In 2000, my scrotum started swelling. I ignored it and over time it became difficult even to wear regular trousers. I started to research and suspected that this could be hydrocele but was scared to visit a doctor as this is a very personal and embarrassing problem and can lead to discrimination. I found that the problem was affecting my marriage, that I couldn’t ride my scooter or at times even walk to the bathroom. I would have to spend up to 10 days a month in bed, losing wages and feeling a great sense of shame, not only that I had received this affliction, but that others could see it unless I changed how I dressed. This badly affected my mental health and I even contemplated suicide. While LF does not have a cure, hydrocele symptoms can be resolved with a simple surgery. However fears about cost and taking time off work, along with the embarrassment can mean men suffer in silence rather than seek help. After five years, I was finally convinced to seek treatment by a family member. The doctor I saw laughed and asked why I had waited so long as the surgery took less than 15 minutes and after a couple of weeks of recovery I never looked back. I was lucky in that I was able to pay the R5000 (around £53) for the surgery, although the five years of missed wages were around four times that much. Many others are not in the position to pay this and so go on living with the pain and embarrassment, damaging their mental health and family relationships.
Since the surgery I have been able to progress and now I am proud to be Lepra’s State Coordinator for Bihar. I now help other men in my situation to know that there are options for them, that they need not suffer in silence, while also working to tackle leprosy. I am proud that Lepra has teamed up with the Vodafone Foundation on an exciting new project called Mobilising Men’s Health. The project is helping men to overcome hydrocele by funding surgery and offering a bursary to cover lost wages during their recovery. LF and hydrocele do not qualify as disabilities in much of India. A big part of our work is to lobby governments at the state and national level to change this, as the effects of LF and hydrocele can be debilitating. Your support will allow us to help more people affected by these diseases get the support and help they need, so that they too can overcome the odds.
Rajni Kant Singh - Projects Co-ordinator for Bihar
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