Stigma- the other enemy people face in the battle against COVID-19
Author: Dr. Sheenu Jain, Associate Professor,IIHMR University, Jaipur
World is anxiously waiting to see The-end of Corona virus; we are struggling to regain the sense of control we lost to this threat. COVID-19 will be remembered as a disease that divided us and affecting us much harder than we imagined.
India Inc is under the tight grip of Corona pandemic, and now it is also reporting cases of nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals who are running the battle for all of us in this country disdained by many of us for fear of being contaminated by novel virus. Door of their own apartments have been shunned for them and they are also facing threat of general isolation. People have been labelling them, discriminating against, treating separately,
and/or they are experiencing loss of status because of perceived link with the novel corona virus.
We are reading reports about landlords asking doctors to vacant the house without any notice as they believe these doctors or medical professionals, if stay in their houses they will become more prone to COVID-19. So many such incidents are coming to the light. This protective physical distancing is no longer protective in fact becoming counterproductive to our society.
There is whole bunch of people nationwide who applauded their selfless services on the day of Janata Curfew, but in the very next moment forgetting the services of these doctors. All these people need to understand that all precautions are being taken by doctors & staff on COVID-19 duty to ensure they’re not carriers of infection in anyway. Let’s not demoralize them, it is our bounden duty to keep their morale high. In case of such social stigma these healthcare professionals can be negatively affected. Let’s not create such discriminatory behaviour with these people Undoubtedly there is mayhem, worry, and fear among the people, but unfortunately it is fuelling harmful typecasts. According to WHO primarily there are three different factors that can be attributed to stigma associated with COVID-19
- 1. A new and unknown disease with still many unknown facts.
- 2. Fear of unknown is universal.
- 3. People easily associate that fear with others.
Such stigma can weaken solidity and prompt possible social isolation of these people which we never know might contribute to a situation where the virus is more likely to spread, and may lead to increased problems, and difficulties in managing outbreak.
It is also affecting caregivers, family, friends and communities. People who are not suffering from COVID-19 but share similar characteristics are also suffering from this stigma. Social stigma is driving people to hide their illness to avoid any kind of discrimination and preventing them from taking immediate healthcare which is rather more dangerous.
There are evidences in the past which suggests that stigma and fear around communicable diseases hampers our response. Let’s work towards building trust in reliable healthcare professionals, empathise with those affected, try and understand the disease, and most importantly adopt practical and effective measures to help people remain safe. Let’s not let this social stigma compounded and join hands together to communicate support and encouragement for those who are on the frontlines of response to this outbreak (health care workers, volunteers, community leaders etc). let’s serve to kill toxicity of stigma and give them added power to conquer and defeat the disease.