COVID-19 and stigmatisation

Gradually but steadily, stigmatisation, emerging out of the coronavirus is spreading just as the disease.

In Ghana, it has been observed that stigmatisation has been going alongside the pandemic and the target have been health professionals and individuals alike.

In rare cases, coronavirus patients who have recovered have been greeted with thorns and attacks by people around them.

With the spread of the virus, the attacks have also increased and stigmatisation is arising mostly out of fear of being infected.

The stigmatisation that is being experienced go to confirm that, in times of crisis of great magnitude, people tend to look for scapegoats in order to vent their frustrations, worries and fears.

It is against this backdrop that we join the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in appealing to the people to stop the stigmatisation of those who have recovered from COVID-19.

Indeed, the President spoke our mind when he said “stories of persons who have recovered from this disease and who are shunned by their own relatives and communities are recourse of considerable worry to me because they undermine our effort to fight.”

“There is nothing shameful about testing positive. We do not have to lose our sense of community because of this pandemic,” the President said in a televised national address to the nation on COVID-19.

The President did not end there but further urged the public to pay attention to their health when they begin to experience symptoms such as fever, persistent cough, loss of appetite and smell and difficulty in breathing, to seek immediate attention at the nearest health facility.

We share in the sentiment of the President because stigmatisation at this time is going to work against the collective communal effort in tackling the disease head on.

Public health emergencies, such as this pandemic, are stressful times for people and communities and form the basis for negative attitudes and beliefs toward people.

Our efforts toward combating the pandemic, which is spreading at an alarming rate across the world, will be derailed if more people are compelled for fear of stigma to hide symptoms or illness, desist from seeking health care immediately, and prevent individuals from adopting healthy behaviours. 

This can lead to labelling, stereotyping, discrimination and other negative behaviours toward others.

Stigmatisation also negatively affects the emotional, mental and physical health of stigmatised groups and the communities they live in.

Stigmatised individuals may experience isolation, depression, anxiety, or public embarrassment.

The Ghanaian Times believes it is time the country wages a relentless campaign to educate the public on stigmatisation by sharing accurate information about how the virus spreads and providing mental health and social service support to those affected by the canker.

This is the time for solidarity among the citizens so that together we can fight the disease and prevent stigmatisation altogether.

We call on all citizens to consider the fight against COVID-19 as one for everybody because the disease is no respecter of anyone; be it rich, poor, an adult or a child.

We pray fervently that we would all come together and fight till we win the war against the deadly disease.

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