People who have just returned from hospital or Covid care centre have yet another problem to deal with back home. Despite being tested negative and having isolated for another two weeks, they are being stigmatized by people around them. They are somehow treated like an outcast and stared at as if the virus was spread by them.
In a particular incident, a pharmacist refused to sell them any medicine for fear of contracting the virus. In yet another incident, a customer walked away from a shop after learning that a relative of the shop owner’s had just passed away due to the virus. There are many more such incidents and these are happening every day.
Social stigma happens due to fear and ignorance. This can make people who have symptoms less likely to voice out and get tested. The fear of being discriminated may increase the possibility of spreading the virus.
Governments, citizens, media, leaders and communities have an important role to play in spreading awareness about the fact of the virus. It is important that people are well informed about the virus and also understand that actions and words matter.
WHO recently published an article about Social stigma associated with COVID-19 and they wrote about do’s and don’ts on language while talking about corona virus disease. Some of them include,
“DO – talk about “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”, “people who are recovering from COVID-19” or “people who died after contracting COVID-19”
Don’t – refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases” or “victims”.
DO – talk about “people who may have COVID-19” or “people who are presumptive for COVID-19”
Don’t – talk about “COVID-19 suspects” or “suspected cases”.
DO – talk about people “acquiring” or “contracting” COVID-19
Don’t – talk about people “transmitting COVID-19” “infecting others” or “spreading the virus” as it implies intentional transmission and assigns blame.
Using criminalizing or dehumanizing terminology creates the impression that those with the disease have somehow done something wrong or are less human than the rest of us, feeding stigma, undermining empathy, and potentially fueling wider reluctance to seek treatment or attend screening, testing and quarantine.
Ashin Shaiza. The writer may be reached at Ashin.email@example.com