Social stigma associated with COVID worries the country's health authorities

The country's health authorities are concerned about the level of social stigmatization associated with COVID-19.

Only information and education about the disease can help fight stigma

Only information and education about the disease can help fight stigma

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15 May 2020

Social stigma associated with COVID worries the country's health authorities

Some people suspected of having contracted COVID19 refused to be tested, and the reason behind it may be related to fear or stigma, fear of being judged by their own communities.

Braima, a resident of Militar neighborhood confirmed this thesis when he called an interactive UN program on Rádio Jovem to testify how his own community judged him, after experiencing symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus and decided to alert the health authorities to do a test and so confirm whether he had contracted the disease or not.

“I was running a fever, coughing and breathing hard, so the next day I called the emergency number 2020 and immediately sent a response team to my house to extract a sample and days later I received the result and thank God it was negative, but I was reproached by my neighbors for reporting my case to health authorities. ”, told Braima.
"In their opinion, I shouldn't have called the health agents, I shouldn't expose myself that way, they think I should be ashamed of what I did," he explained.

Braima continues to think that it was good to call the health workers as soon as he felt those symptoms because he considers it "the only way to protect children at home, neighbors and our own community". 

He says that if he had tested positive he would have accepted being isolated so as not to spread the virus and contaminate others.

Psychologist Dionísia Antonio de Pina Oncunho, who was live on radio answering to the listeners questions, warns that behaviors like that of the neighbors of Braima can traumatize, “the person immediately starts to question what is right? Keeping silent contaminating others and putting your own life at risk or accepting the disease seek health workers and then be judged by society? ”
Dionísia Oncunho praised Braima's attitude and courage, who, after having had an unpleasant experience, had the courage to call on a radio program to talk about his story and thereby alert to the problems of stigma.

“Braima's attitude was that of a conscious citizen, he thought not only of himself, but also of his family, his neighbor, his community and his country, and this is called citizenship.”, said the expert.

The evidence clearly shows that the stigma and fear surrounding the new coronavirus makes it difficult to respond and may contribute to the spread of the virus. The stigma can be exacerbated by insufficient knowledge about how the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is transmitted and treated, and how to prevent infection.

The way we communicate about COVID-19 is critical to supporting people to take effective measures to help fight the disease and to avoid feeding fear and stigma, and so the UN team in Guinea-Bissau, led by WHO, carried out small surveys, and designed a communication campaign to support the efforts of the Guinea-Bissau authorities to inform the population and ensure the commitment of all to combat the pandemic. The campaign's slogan is “Together we can beat the coronavirus”.

In view of the increase in stigmatization associated with COVID19, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Thedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in one of his statements that “It is so painful to see the level of stigma that we are witnessing”, adding that, “and discrimination, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself. ”

The World Health Organization recently launched a guide against the social stigma associated with COVID on how to talk about the new disease and with patients and with technical guidance for individuals and health professionals, who are currently under enormous strain.