One thing that is becoming apparent even as we battle Covid19 is the stigma patients and even those who have healed completely, face. The Daily Monitor website has been running a series titled, “My Covid-19 story” (https://bit.ly/3vJT4Ki) and many of those who share experiences talk about the stigma they have faced.
Mr Jaffari Basajjabalaba, the Bushenyi District Chairperson, talked about how when he returned home after recovery, many people including family, friends and people at the district offices were scared of getting close to him due to the fact that he had been in isolation. Also Dennis Kilama, who battled with the disease last year had to be isolated in his home. Whenever he would come out of his isolation room the cry he heard was: “Run for your dear life.” His family members were scared of being near him.
It is understandable the fear everyone has about Covid19. This second wave has been especially terrible with a rise in infections and the loss of many, precious lives. So people are wary of being near anyone suspected to have had the disease. However, while caution is necessary, stigma is destructive. We ought to, in our various capacities understand how stigma can be isolating and in some cases delay the healing of those who are unwell.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), stigma can drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination, prevent people from seeking healthcare immediately, and discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours. This will not help the cause.
What we should do instead is the following, according to WHO. We should share only verified information and not any forwards or messages that come our way. While we should continue to be careful and follow SOPs, and comfort those who have lost loved ones, we should continue to talk positively, especially to those still battling the disease.
We should emphasize the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures, because for most people, this is a disease they can overcome. In last week’s Friday’s edition of the Daily Monitor, one of the stories, “200 Ugandans beat Covid-19 each day”, reported that, “Between May 15 and June 13, a total of 6,051 people recovered from the disease, according to statistics from Ministry of Health.
On May 15, a cumulative total of 42,429 people had recovered from the disease since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, but by June 13, the cumulative recoveries rose to 48,480.” There are many positive stories and starting today, Daily Monitor will be running these to encourage those who have been infected and are being treated. Let’s all do our part to beat the stigma.