While catching up on the news the other day, I was drawn to a story on the of social stigma on the spread and management of COVID 19. The sour story refreshed my mind back to the days when social stigma was a force reckoned around HIV and AIDS in the early 2000s.
As I recall how families and friends of the afflicted went through a rough life, I reminded that it is possible to live through any turbulence, including this one that COVID 19 has caused.
Is there a social stigma around COVID-19?
Before we speak jargon;
Social stigma is that unfounded condemnation and discrimination by the society members towards persons in their society who are perceived to inhibit distinct characteristics.
Mostly, social stigma is bashed towards people due to their gender, race, culture, levels of intelligence, and health states. It was known to affect those living with disabilities or certain diseases.
Now that we have demystified what social stigma entails, we can as well ask ourselves about COVID 19 related stigma. Is it there or not?
COVID 19 and social stigma.
Reputable medical research institutes and organizations have trod down a path to establish some of the factors fueling the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. As part of the findings, you would be surprised that the social stigma is one of those factors seen to be wiping out populations more than even the pandemic ought to.
Who has been affected by COVID 19 related social stigma?
It is one thing to maintain a social distance but another one to spread social stigma. The two widely used concepts are easy to confuse, one for each other. However, it remains unfair to treat with disapproval individuals in society for coming in contact with cases or even worse for contracting the COVID 19 infection.
The more saddening part is that this “airborne” strain of coronavirus is not anything one would choose to have on purpose. It is basically by chance that one person will catch the infection while the other will remain untouched.
Initially, COVID 19 related social stigma was prominent amongst nationals from particular countries thought to be having high prevalence. In addition to that, in states where we have cases, residents of areas marked as hotspots would face similar wrath.
Unfortunately, as the pandemic slowly sipped through various continents and regions, the stigma molted and wore new skin such that it was now affecting:
- Those who had been confirmed through testing to have coronavirus (COVID 19 cases)
- Those who are in quarantine and isolation either voluntarily or mandatory
- Families of those who test positive for COVID 19 and the suspected cases
- Health workers particularly working in facilities where there are COVID cases reported.
Factors influencing COVID-19 related social stigma
Several concepts can be attributed to the counts of cases on COVID 19 associated stigma. Here are the three main factors influencing social stigma:
1. Inadequate knowledge about COVID 19 virus in the society
As far as the world is concerned, the COVID 19 pandemic concept is still young. While scientists are burning the midnight oil trying to find out more about this new infection, not much has been brought to the public eye.
The populations in the different nations are unsure about the cause, mode of transmission, and even prevention. The ruling governments, including those of superpowers, have in different stances, seems shaken by the indiscriminating virus. Consequently, fear, confusion, and anxiety have enveloped the masses as they speculate for the worse.
Again, the media has been keeping its followers with live updates, and the statistics keep forming a deteriorating curve. Without adequate information, panic among citizens is always an apparent result. Hence, some people may end up socially evading people connected with the infection.
2. The unpredictability of health outcomes associated with COVID 19 virus
Another reason why social stigma related to COVID 19 19 is prevalent is due to the uncertainties it brings about.
With COVID 19, you can never be too sure.
As at now, people know two primary outcomes, its either you catch the infection and fight it in a hospital bed or succumb from it. When it comes to something that is said to have fatal results, not many people are bold enough to think about how they can beat the virus. Most people are fixated to the thought that they may die from the illness-causing infection. Hence, they will do anything to ensure death is not one of the unfortunate outcomes, even if it means locking themselves or others out of their lives.
3. Misinforming stereotypes on COVID 19
Whenever there is a lack of enough information, most people fall for speculation. Unfortunately, some of those that will be speculators are the same people entrusted as community leaders who influence the mass thinking of their conquest. Most of the speculations are versions of distorted truths.
Since a huge chunk of the population has been stuck at home for months, a majority is hungry for normalcy. Most people rely on social and mass media platforms for information. If it is informing, it poses a significant risk of causing misinformation. Too bad, these same distorted truths may cause false stereotypes that may lead to social stigmatization to COVID 19 cases and their families.
Look at the recovery statistics; there are as many people walking out of the hospital beds in good shape. Actually, if we have to overcome and learn to live with this virus, we all have to join hands and be part of the solution.
This is achievable through not only by observing the set minimums on personal hygiene and social distancing but also whooping the social stigma around COVID 19 out of our societies.