People have been urged to avoid stigmatising Covid-19 patients because it could prevent those with symptoms of the disease from seeking help. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
People have been urged to avoid stigmatising Covid-19 patients because it could prevent those with symptoms of the disease from seeking help. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Call to stop Covid-19 stigma as it 'often causes people to avoid care'

By Staff Reporter Time of article published May 14, 2020

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Cape Town - People have been urged to avoid stigmatising Covid-19 patients because it could prevent those with symptoms of the disease from seeking help.

TB HIV Care, an NPO providing care for people with HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases, aims to raise

awareness of how stigma affects Covid-19 patients.

Communications manager Alison Best said: “Stigma often causes people to avoid seeking the care they need. If they remain untreated, not only do they risk becoming severely ill but they are more likely to continue to transmit the disease in the community.”

Julie MacDonnell, the Provincial Council on Aids’ sector leader for legal and human rights, said: “There seems to be a growing notion out there that people who contract the disease have done so because of their own actions.

“The blaming and shaming of the victim means those affected by the disease may find it difficult to disclose their positive status to others, thereby preventing the process of contact tracing and ultimately saving lives.”

She said the stigmatisation of people who had contracted Covid-19 intensified if those with the disease were members of vulnerable groups, such as people who lived on the streets or those living with TB or HIV.

Education, and more information, about Covid-19 was needed to fight stigma and dispel inaccurate information circulating in communities. People needed to have compassion for those with the disease, and support them, which would assist in the response to the disease.

MacDonnell said leaders who had contracted Covid-19 should openly declare how they had been affected by it, as had been done by people with HIV.

“We need the same sense of support and encouragement, with no vilifying or denouncing of Covid-19-positive patients across all races, genders, political affiliations and cultural backgrounds.” 

Cape Argus

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