Vitiligo is not a ‘disease’ and it is important not to treat those who have it like pariahs

Posted on January 11 2017 , at 11:00 am
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  • It affects 1% of the world's population (that is close to 70 million people) and can appear on any part of the body.


Last night we shared this photo on thenetng Instagram exactly the way it was seen floating around on Twitter: a butt shot of a lady who has a colouration on her skin.

Admittedly, it was provocative – photographs of naked women always are. But beyond that, it drew more attention to the issue of vitiligo, which surprisingly in 2017 is still misunderstood by a wide cross section of the populace.

Vitiligo is a skin condition that makes it lose its pigment and become white. It affects all races and genders, even though it is more easily noticeable in black people because of the obvious skin tone.

It affects 1% of the world’s population (that is close to 70 million people) and can appear on any part of the body.

For many years, the condition has been erroneously seen as contagious and people who have it have had to contend with the life altering change it brings with it. There is no imagining the trauma of losing one’s skin colour to white patches all over.

Winnie Harlow
Model Winnie Harlow

Michael Jackson was said to had whitened his skin to hide the effects on his body. Only a few days ago, Dencia was on a British television station to make a case for her whitening cream as beneficial for vitiligo suffers.

For the greater percentage of people who have the skin condition, they find ways of living with it, despite the overwhelming majority of fellow human beings who treat it – and them – with fear and disdain.

A good case in point is the Twitter user who posted the said shot of the woman with a caption that inferred that men could be irritated by the sight of a woman who has signs of vitiligo on her buttocks, no less.

As expected, our audience has been very vocal, condemning the objectification of women on one hand as well as decrying the ignorance that surrounds vitiligo.

Increasingly, vitiligo is being seen as something which no one has control over, much less the person who has it. The ignorance of whoever shared the photo on Twitter (with that insensitive caption) is a sign that much work still needs to be done to enlighten people.

Several models with vitiligo have embraced their uniqueness and many of them have used it to raise awareness for the disease. Winnie Harlow perhaps is the most popular of them.

Winnie Harlow
Winnie Harlow posing for the camera

In Nigeria, it is our nature to be afraid of what we do not understand; therefore, many comments on the post were not a surprise. Neither was the indignation of others who saw it as a mockery of those dealing with the condition.

We will continue to create conversations around issues such as this, so as to further educate all our readers of the need to support those who have it.

Vitiligo is NOT a contagious ‘disease’. It is important not to treat those who have it like pariahs.

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