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Important to remove Covid-19 stigma and ensure people don’t feel ashamed

The possible discrimination many people fear after contracting Covid-19 prevents them from divulging that they have the virus, Langa-based traditional leader Eric Galada says. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

The possible discrimination many people fear after contracting Covid-19 prevents them from divulging that they have the virus, Langa-based traditional leader Eric Galada says. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Jun 28, 2020

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Cape Town - The possible discrimination many people fear after contracting Covid-19 prevents them from divulging that they have the virus, Langa-based traditional leader Eric Galada says.

Galada, who tested positive, said: “People are scared or ashamed because of the stigma that exists. I believe that everyone in South Africa will either be affected or infected by Covid-19. The important thing is how.”

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Galada said he had always been active in the community with HIV/Aids and TB awareness, so it was important for him to continue raising awareness of the virus.

“When I received the SMS saying I was positive, I could not believe it. I stay with my wife and two kids. We went as a family for testing and it was the hardest thing to understand that my wife was negative but both my children tested positive, aged 4 and 13,” he said.

TB HIV Care communications manager Alison Best said: “Blaming and shaming means that those affected by the disease may find it difficult to seek help or disclose their positive status to others, thereby inhibiting the process of testing, isolation and contact-tracing.

“Ultimately this impacts negatively on the health of the affected person, as well as transmission within their community.”

Best said her experience within the TB and HIV field had shown how damaging the stigma of infectious diseases could be. Stigma often causes people to avoid seeking the care they need.

If they remain untreated, not only do they become sicker, but they are more likely to continue to transmit the disease in the community.

“We have a cure for TB and treatment for HIV, but TB is still South Africa’s leading cause of death, and there are many people living with HIV who are not on treatment. One of the major reasons for this is stigma,” she said.

Galada said family members were a bit hesitant and fearful that revealing his positivity would draw unnecessary attention.

“The possiblity of community members showing discrimination was a reality, however it is believed that this is an opportunity to teach others that it is needed to be spoken about.”

Best said: “When people see that anyone can be affected and that it is possible to recover, they may feel less afraid, less alone, and more confident to share their own health status.”

@Sukainaish

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Cape Argus

Related Topics:

Covid-19

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