Why is COVID-19 infection still a stigma?

One of my friends recently got diagnosed with COVID-19. I got to know indirectly and messaged him, wishing him a speedy recovery. He promptly replied with a thanks but wanted to know how I knew. He also told me not to tell anyone else. I assured him I wouldn't. He dropped a veiled threat, saying it was illegal to tell others that someone was COVID positive. I repeated I wouldn't, wondering to myself how an educated engineer who studied in the US, worked for a few years and returned to India could harbour such a primitive mindset?

Reflecting on what I thought was an unfortunate aberration, I realised it was not him but society that was to blame. We have seen several suicides in the early months of this pandemic in India and elsewhere. Suicides! For what? Well, no reason can be good enough for a suicide. But this?

How can we fix this attitude of society?

I think both, the person infected and people around them can do several things to change this perception.

First, we should all acknowledge that this is an infectious disease. This one aspect of this disease makes it much more feared than something like Cancer or Kidney Disease. People can catch it suddenly. Even though most people recover completely, a tiny number experience a more severe form of the disease and can also die. All this happens in a matter of days or weeks. This quick nature of the disease also lends itself to being feared by the general public.

People who contract the virus must not be defensive about it. Yes, it happened. Do everything you can to fix it. Don't feel you have done anything wrong. You have not. There is nothing to hide.

Understand that people will fear coming close to you. You would fear, too, if you were in their place. So, don't feel bad or shamed if they stay far from you, ask you to isolate and so on. That is medically the best thing to do. You should do it yourself without them having to ask you to do it. 

People who are around those who have been infected, remember that they are going through trying times. They need your support. Make sure they are following the clinical precautions recommended. Gently nudge them if they are not doing it voluntarily. Apart from not coming in close contact with them, make sure you treat them normally. If possible, add a fun element, to make the whole experience light. Laugh and joke about the distancing and masks. Never take the actual protocols easy, though.

There are several advantages of making a COVID-19 infection less stigmatic. Apart from people not killing themselves, more people will come forward to report their symptoms and get tested. There have been instances of people not even getting tested because of the various reasons. "What if I come positive? I will have to isolate." In the process, several more people are getting infected. Estimates say that the actual number of infections in India is 5 to 10 times the reported number.

It is up to all of us to rid society of the stigma associated with this disease. All of us will benefit from this.


Unknown said…
Sir mujhe 9 months phle covid hua tha .....ab mujhe vaccine lgane ki jarurat h ....m home peritonial dialysis p hoon