Someone rightly said that “by reducing the stigma and prejudice against
marginalized groups, we can create a safe and trusting environment where every life counts and the help is given to those who most need it.”
The anonymous writer of the above statement was advising the world that
stigmatization is never a solution to solving problems in society. However, that is not exactly what we experience in the real world especially amid the COVID-19
pandemic. In the midst of the widespread infection, fear and deaths the world is facing as a result of the Corona Virus, comes another situation that families of the infected persons face – stigmatization.
Families are now as twice worried about the stigma they face in the society than they are with their relatives contracting the virus. Some customers have been lost, shops closed and source of livelihoods taken away as a result of family members testing positive to the deadly pandemic.
A typical situation was reported by the Joy News TV channel on the 7 th April, 2020 where neighbors refused to buy from the shop of a family of a man who tested positive for the virus and had been quarantined even though the rest of the family tested negative.
The fear is that the infected persons would spread the virus in an effort to prevent stigmatization. I mean, we have heard about people hiding their travel history from health professional just to avoid being labeled a high-risked person.
Others with symptoms of the virus have refused to call the nation’s health-lines for help and have gone into hiding thus the continued spreading of the virus to even uninfected regions.
Even people who had tested positive of the virus and were receiving treatments at
quarantine units have been reported to have eloped for fear of stigmatisation.
Even though it is expedient for us in these times to be cautious and practice the preventive measures such as frequent washing of hands with soap under running water, use of alcohol-based sanitizers, covering of mouth and nose with tissue or a flexed arm when coughing or sneezing and social distancing as much as possible, stigmatisation is never the solution.
People who have tested positive and their families are already facing psychological problems. Stigma against them will only increase this problem and may even lead to depression.
Furthermore, how will families survive in this lockdown and limited movement
period when their sources of income have taken away from them since their
breadwinners have been quarantined as a result of the virus?
Over the years, large sums of money and efforts have earnestly been directed by government and organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN) and other NGOs towards the eradication of the stigma against people living with HIVAIDS, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups of people around the world and here comes another type of stigma in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is therefore imperative that massive public education is given by government and other civil societies to help curb the stigma against COVID-19 patients and their families.