Leprosy is an ancient disease which is still poorly understood and often feared by the general public and even by some healthcare professionals. Fortunately, improvements in the management of leprosy over the past three decades have diminished the stigma and greatly altered the outlook for patients. Public understanding of the disease has benefited from WHO's goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem by the year 2000. Unfortunately that goal has also led many to believe that leprosy has been or will soon be eradicated. This will not happen in the near future because, despite a fall in registered cases, the incidence of the disease has changed very little, and eradication of a bacterial infectious disease such as this is unlikely with chemotherapy alone. Nevertheless, as a result of the WHO's efforts, patients nearly everywhere should have access to care, and the incidence may begin to diminish if adequate control efforts are maintained beyond the year 2000. Given the mobility of patients today a physician anywhere may occasionally see a case or be asked about the disease so a basic understanding of leprosy and its management should prove useful.