Uganda: Patients Speak Out On Stigma

Some Covid-19 patients have spoken out about the stigma they are facing in the community.

"I tested positive to Covid-19 about one month ago and I immediately started treatment. Word spread around and a section of people in my neighbourhood found out that I was sick. Afterwards, some changed their attitudes towards me," says Mr Joseph Okot, a resident in Kireka, Wakiso District, said yesterday.

"I recently went to buy sugar from a shop in the neighbourhood and the shopkeeper refused to serve me. He boldly told me that I might take corona to his shop," he added.

Mr Okot, who is still isolating at home, says he spends most of his time in the house.

The Ministry of Health has continuously urged those who test positive for the virus to isolate and adhere to treatment. They are also advised to follow standard operating procedures.

Another victim, a businessman, who preferred anonymity, also told this newspaper that his girlfriend stopped visiting his apartment.

"Even after getting treatment and recently testing negative, she still avoids me. She neither wants to touch or hug me. It is tormenting," he said.

Mr Okot and the businessman are among other members of the society who are being discriminated against for contracting the virus.

Ms Jean Kyomugisha Nuwagaba, a counseling psychologist at Care Counselling Centre in Naalya Estates, said the community should not entirely be blamed for discriminating against Covid-19 patients

"This second wave of Covid-19 has made everyone panic and so, people are doing everything they can to stay safe, even if it means completely detaching themselves from those who are Covid-19 positive," Ms Nuwagaba said.

"There are other ways members of the community can show care to Covid-19 patients. For instance, make calls and send text messages to check on them. This kind of care is what partly gives one the morale to beat the disease," she added.

Coping with stigma

Mr David Kavuma, a counselling psychologist at Mildmay Uganda and Adonai Counselling and Training Services, said hospitals should incorporate counselling services in Covid-19 treatment.

"There is little being done to counsel patients, families and community members about the virus. I am afraid stigma is rising in society," he said.

If hospitals implemented counselling services, there would be lesser cases of discrimination, according to Mr Kavuma.

Mr Ali Male, a counselling psychologist at A-Z Professional Counselling and Support Centre in Kampala, advises patients to understand the emotional state of those they reside with.

"'Bear with the way they treat you at times because like you, they are psychologically tortured as well. The important thing is to stay positive and continue adhering to treatment," he said.

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