There are no actual statistics on vitiligo cases in Africa. However we do know that it exists and skin color contrast makes it very obvious, more so on black skin than on white skin.
Statistics are that about 1-2% of the world’s population have vitiligo. Getting an accurate count in Africa is difficult because the stigma of the disease causes people to live in the shadows.
In the rural and remote villages of Africa the social stigma and isolation is even worse. Most people with vitiligo can't participate in meetings or join organizations. Some are even ex-communicated.
They receive no support from their families who believe that they bring shame. All of this has roots in supernatural beliefs because people refuse to see and understand life from its true and natural perspective. They think the wrath of the Gods is at work and want to avoid contracting vitiligo themselves.The height of ignorance is such that people mistake vitiligo for a contagious disease.
The condition of Vitiligo, has a major impact on the Quality of Life of patients. It is one of the most psychologically, emotionally and psychosocially devastating chronic skin conditions.
Back in the USA
Africa is a very interesting continent: anything unknown becomes a curse, nemesis or the result of some magical power. Because of these beliefs treatment can be very difficult to come by.
Back in the USA
There is one very well known person who had Vitiligo. His name is Michael Jackson. Michael's very public battle with vitiligo and pigment change was the topic of much discussion.
Mochael was first diagnosed with vitiligo in 1986. He admitted to having the disease when he appeared on the Oprah Show back in 1993 and his diagnosis was subsequently confirmed by a number of medical professionals. Despite this admission there was speculation and doubt for a number of years about his gradual change in skin pigment. One need only look at his pigment change in photographs over the course of his life to understand how he likely relied heavily on make-ups for camouflage to even out his skin tone and eventually totally depigmented the skin that was most often seen, (his face and hands). It is also a commonly held view that Jackson’s famous glove was likewise an attempt to conceal pigmentary loss on his hands.
Vitiligo is a disease which affects people from all backgrounds, races and creeds.
Below is a photo of my mother in her early 20's and another of her at age 79. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of her skin color in transition. I remember that she wore a lot of special make up to cover up her changing color. She also wore hats to protect her light skin from the sun. The hat became here trademark.
A couple of things stand out to me regarding how she looked to the outside world. When she was flying to visit us for what turned out to be her last Christmas, she told us that she sat beside a man on the plane who asked her "what are you?" referring to her ethnicity. When she told him she was African American, he did not believe her and insisted that she was not. He kept insisting that she was Korean. Finally she just said "ok, I'm Korean!" On another occasion I showed her photo to a group of people, they looked at the photo with curiosity. They looked from the picture to me and back again, finally one of them said "that's your mother?" when I replied that she was, they said "oh, your mother is white?"
My mother's Vitiligo did not begin until she was in her early 50s, which is very rare. There is no cure for this disorder. About 1/2 of the people who are going to get the disease will have onset before the age of 20 and most by 40. I know that its not contagious but it is hereditary. Because she got it so late in life, I was always fearful that I too would get it as well. I used to examine my skin and question every light spot I had. It is said that the disease is not life threatening but it is an autoimmune disorder. My mother passed away of liver cancer at the age of 79 in June 2007.
for more info www.vitsaf.org