The derogatory labels against survivors; people run away on the street, supermarkets are boycotted, and fingers are pointed. To recount an incident, a 19-year-old boy died of COVID-19 at Walewale Government Hospital in the North East Region. Their neighbours are avoiding the family of the boy, nobody wants to buy from them or sell to them. Some even tag survivors’ home as COVID-19 house. It is just unfortunate.
The Coronavirus pandemic has unfortunately provoked social stigmatisation against people in our community. The stigma is leading to labeling, stereotyping and discrimination. The stigma is all due to lack of knowledge about how the COVID-19 spreads. Fear and anxiety is fueling the stigmatisation.
We understand the disease is new and still with grey areas coupled with the fear of the unknown. It is perfectly understandable that there is confusion, anxiety and fear in the communities.
Nevertheless, it is not the fault of the person to have contracted the disease. The virus is the enemy and not the human being. People who test positive seem to be oblivious to where and how they contracted it.
How then do you blame the person for testing positive?
The stigmatisation drives people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination, it also prevent people from seeking health care immediately, and it discourages them from adopting healthy behaviours. Stigmatisation would make the disease more difficult to control the extent of spread of the outbreak.
If you know someone who has tested positive, support him or her. This is the time to show our humanity.
Dos and Don’t
- Show concern to people who may have tested positive to COVID-19.
- Communicate support.
- Share facts and accurate information about the disease.
- Do not alert others that the said person has tested positive if they do not know.
- Do not tell people to stay away from them.
- Stop the gossips that is mostly based on myth and lies.
- Do not blame others for contracting the virus.
- Do not attach location to the disease. For instance “Chinese virus” or “COVID house”
- Do not talk about people “transmitting COVID-19” “Infecting others” or “Spreading the virus” as it implies intentional transmission and assigns blame.
Stigmatisation and discrimination hurts everyone in the community, it creates more fear or anger toward ordinary people instead of focusing on the disease that is causing the problem.
ACI Africa Correspondent, Ghana (2020, May 14). Catholic Professionals in Ghana warn of Mental Issues amid COVID-19 Stigma Surge. Retrieved on 13/07/2020 from https://www.aciafrica.org/news/1330/catholic-professionals-in-ghana-warn-of-mental-issues-amid-covid-19-stigma-surge
Obuobi Asare, K., (2020). Stigma as a Social Death for COVID-19 Survivors in Ghana. Retrieved on 13/07/2020 on https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341342665
Reducing Stigma (2020, June 11, Updated). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on 13/07/2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/reducing-stigma.html
Rutgers Global Health Institute (2020, April 18). The Scarlet C: Coronavirus survivors face the stigma and discrimination. Retrieved on 13/07/2020 from https://globalhealth.rutgers.edu/news/the-scarlet-c-coronavirus-survivors-face-the-stigma-and-discrimination/
Social Stigma associated with COVID-19 (2020, February 24, Updated). A guide to preventing and addressing social stigma. IFRC, UNICEF and World Health Organization. Retrieved on 13/07/2020 from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/covid19-stigma-guide.pdf?sfvrsn=226180f4_2
Source: Public Affairs Unit Desk