THE Bishop of Ely, Dr Anthony Russell, will launch his Lent Appeal 2008 next Thursday (January 31) to support the work of the Leprosy Mission, at Orton Goldhay, Peterborough. Last year's appeal, launched at St Barnabas Church, Oxmoor, supported the Church Urban Fund. The 2008 appeal will focus on the work of the Schieffelin Institute of Health in Karigiri, South India, in Ely's link diocese of Vellore. Since its foundation in 1955, the hospital has been at the forefront of leprosy care, the diocese said. It was a pioneer of the multi-drug therapy that now transforms the lives of leprosy sufferers, and also of innovative surgery on tendon transfer to restore some use to damaged limbs. Today, this modern community hospital cares for the medical needs of a large and expanding population. No one with leprosy is ever turned away. There is also a vibrant hospital church and committed chaplaincy team who provide vital spiritual care, a diocesan spokesman added. More than 1,400 people per day were diagnosed with leprosy in 2005. The disease is acquired through airborne infection and has been curable for the past 20 years. Yet the stigma remains, and many of those who could be cured do not come forward for treatment for fear of shame and rejection.