Covid-19 stigma a problem, but sharing status opens door to help
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Pretoria - Covid-19 has led to misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the pandemic, origin, prevention and treatment of the disease.
According to Dr Shandir Ramlagan of the Human Sciences Research Council, at first people thought it was an old person’s disease, and the youth were not at risk. However, they soon realised it was not the case.
“After the second wave we saw how anyone can be affected and that has given people a big wake-up call. It has also pushed the stigma away too.
“At the beginning the stigma stuck on white, rich older people who travelled because people believed that that group had brought it into the country,” he added.
He said some people thought, and still do, this was something that would not happen to them but rather to other people.
This then resulted in people not wearing their masks, not washing their hands and becoming relaxed about prevention methods.
Ramlagan said after the second wave hit people started keeping quiet if they fell ill and were scared to tell even the family members that they lived with it as they had tested positive for Covid-19.
“What happens in this case is that if the whole family gets infected and they find out who they got it from, that person gets blamed by the entire family and this brings immense guilt to the person who brought it,” he explained.
The most important thing was to be open and honest about one’s status because it made it easier for everyone to protect themselves and prevent spreading it.
Looking at what has been learnt from other diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, if people informed others and disclosed their disease then they could receive the help that they need.
Ramlagan said social support was an amazing and important thing, and based on HIV research, people who have support tend to do better and live longer and happier.
“If people disclosed their Covid-19 status they can get emotional support, if you let people know then people know how and where they can help out.”
He added the stigma and misinformation created more problems than people realised, and education about Covid-19 was the first step in the right direction.