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Since India went under a complete lockdown, the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who are selflessly taking care of the COVID-19 patients are facing a lot of problems due to social stigma and discrimination. Healthcare professionals and their families are being forcefully evicted by their landlords due to the fear that the healthcare workers can be carriers of the novel coronavirus infection.
What Is Social Stigma?
In the healthcare sector, social stigma is defined as a powerful social process that is characterised by stereotyping, labelling and separation, which leads to loss of status and discrimination because of a perceived link with a disease .
Healthcare professionals who are taking care of the infected patients and family and friends who are close to the healthcare workers may also suffer from social stigma because of the notion that they have been in contact with the virus.
Why Is Coronavirus Causing Social Stigma?
Social stigma associated with coronavirus is based on three factors:
- Coronavirus disease is new and unknown
- Fear of the unknown disease
- Easy to link this fear with 'others'
What Is The Impact Of Social Stigma?
Amidst the pandemic outbreak, there is a lot of confusion, anxiety and fear among the common public. And this can result in more severe health problems and difficulties in tackling the disease.
The impact of social stigma could do the following:
- It could force people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination
- It could prevent people from seeking medical attention immediately
- It could discourage people from adopting healthy behaviours
Dos And Don’ts On How To Address Social Stigma
The UNICEF has shared some dos and don'ts on how to address social stigma associated with COVID-19.
- Talk openly about the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
- Use the terms "people who have COVID-19", "people who are being treated for COVID-19", "people who are recovering from COVID-19" or "people who died after contracting COVID-19".
- Use the terms "acquiring" or "contracting" COVID-19.
- Learn accurate information about COVID-19, based on scientific data and the latest official health advices.
- Speak positively and emphasis on the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures of COVID-19.
- Focus on adopting preventive measures which include screening, testing and treatment.
- Don't attach locations or ethnicity to the disease; this is not a "Wuhan Virus", "Chinese Virus" or "Asian Virus".
- Avoid referring to people with the disease as "COVID-19 cases" or "victims".
- Don't use the terms "COVID-19 suspects" or "suspected cases".
- Don't use "transmitting COVID-19", "infecting others" or "spreading the virus" as it implies intentional transmission and assigns blame.
- Avoid sharing incorrect rumours and information used to spread fear.
- Don't speak anything negatively.
What You Need To Know As A Responsible Citizen?
Although coronavirus is a highly contagious disease, you can protect yourself through social distancing and practicing hand and respiratory hygiene.
- If anybody contracts the infection, despite all precautions, it is not their fault.
- Healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are selflessly providing care and medical support during this crisis situation.
- People who are directly involved in the management of COVID-19 wear protective equipment to keep them safe from the infection.
- Targeting essential service providers and their families will not help control or stop the disease.