What is COVID-19 Stigma

COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds lately. It has influenced the way people think about the world and the people who live in it. A lot of it has to do with what people know and believe about the virus.

Despite having access to correct information such as from the World Health Organisation or our Department of Health, the spread of fake news and wild theories has led to misinformation (having incorrect information), causing stigma about the virus. Here’s what you need to know about the stigma around COVID-19.

COVID-19 Stigma

COVID-19 stigma is similar to other forms of stigma, which is basically associating the risk of getting the coronavirus with a specific group of people, places or things. For instance, since the outbreak, there’s been a lot of stigma suggesting that COVID-19 affects people who come from Asian countries, older people, healthcare workers and even health facilities. This is absolutely false and can lead to more harm than good. Anyone can get COVID-19, and the sooner we all start taking measures to prevent the virus from spreading, the lower the chances of any of us getting it will be.

The dangers of COVID-19 stigma

Discrimination — COVID-19 stigma can lead to the discrimination (unjust treatment of people belonging to a specific group) of people based on where they come from, their health status and even their profession. Discrimination is ignorant and separates people unnecessarily.

Violence — Judging from historical events, if you stigmatise others based on their COVID-19 health status, you are more likely to act violently (physically and verbally) towards them. This is a criminal offence and you can be charged.

Fear of accessing health care – when you are misinformed about COVID-19 and how to prevent infection, you are more likely to avoid health facilities (like clinics) because you believe that there’s a higher risk of you getting infected. This is risky behaviour, Choma. Choosing to not get medical attention if you are sick not only puts your health on the line, it also increases the chances of you infecting those around you with COVID-19 if you do have it.

If you are feeling ill, you can visit your nearest clinic or doctor’s office (remember to wear a mask). If you suspect that you may have COVID-19, call the free helpline on 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp “Hi” to 060 012 3456 for help. To learn more about what to do if you or someone you know may have the virus, read this.

Avoid COVID-19 stigma

COVID-19 stigma is harmful, Choma, especially since the virus is spreading so quickly right now. The best way to deal with this stigma is to educate yourself about the virus. Once you have the correct information about COVID-19, make sure that you follow the health guidelines and lead by example. If your friends or family members have incorrect information, offer them the right information and always encourage the practice of good hygiene.

While COVID-19 has changed how you live your life at the moment, it shouldn’t change your humanity too. Choose to show kindness and compassion to everyone and remember that we are all going through this pandemic together. The best way we can deal with stigma and stop the spread of COVID-19 is to get all the facts and make sure that those around us are informed too. Here’s an article you can read if you would like to know more about COVID-19.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).