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Health experts warn against COVID-19 stigma

Written by: Neo Koza

There have been reports of stigma arising with the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases in South Africa.

The sister of a KwaZulu-Natal woman who died of COVID-19 has relayed how some neighbours stigmatised the family.

Zama Shandu says there have been wrong messages around the death of her sister and that people have been afraid to come near their family home, but they have kept a positive attitude throughout the ordeal.

Maybe they need the awareness of this thing. They even run away from walking next to our family home. I think they don't understand what is the cause of the death of my sister. We are leaving everything to God.

Zama Shandu

University of Cape Town (UCT) Desmond Tutu HIV Centre head Linda-Gail Bekker has warned that when stigma occurs individuals become too afraid to seek treatment and that this may lead to the spread of the virus.

Other epidemics have taught us that when those reactions occur, it really is very negative towards the public health response to those infections because what happens is individuals become frightened, they don't step forward, they go underground. The infection then spreads underground and isn't managed and responded to in the most effective way.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Head - Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town

It is counter-productive when communities drive individuals underground in this way.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Head - Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town

The concealment just really means it can then spread out of control.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Head - Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town

Bekker says one of the best treatments for stigma is better and more factual information.

So individuals need to discern whether the information they are getting on social media and other places is reliable and factual and make sure they go to reliable sources.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Head - Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town

Click on the link below to hear more....

The Department of Health's deputy director-general at Dr Yogan Pillay has also denounced such attitudes saying this is very worrying.

CLearly the reason for that is that people are unsure and nervous about this, it is a very new disease, we are all learning about it. One thing we want to do is to call on our people not to stigmitse it.

Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy director-general - Department of Health

People don't get covid positive because they want to or it is anything they do, it happens only because you have been in contact with somebody either who came from outside the country or now within the community who has tested positive.

Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy director-general - Department of Health

Click on the link below to hear more....


This article first appeared on 702 : Health experts warn against COVID-19 stigma




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