Virus survivors should be given support against stigma: Expert - GulfToday

Virus survivors should be given support against stigma: Expert


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Aside from health workers and caregivers, families of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients and survivors including other health concerns – be these contagious and non-communicable – should be given all the support they need against stigma, a form of discrimination.

The support is meant to immediately negate denials of unwell-ness, delays in seeking medical help and treatment, and thwarting the rise of infections and worst, deaths.

The opinion was from King’s College London-Centre for Global Mental Health-Health Service and Population Research Department Research fellow Dr. Petra Gronholm.

Gronholm defined stigma as any act of “exclusion, rejection and devaluation” against anyone, group or community brought about by ignorance, misinformation, fear and bias. It leads to avoidance, threats, harassment and violence.

Gronholm was among the speakers at “Caring for Caregivers: Stigma Awareness, Attention and Response” webinar organised recently by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease based in Paris, France.

The discussions with case studies delved on stigma as encountered by nurses attending to tuberculosis patients in Khazakstan, the Philippines and Nigeria – and how The Allies Approach: Stigma Intervention Package in Healthcare Settings have helped them reflect on and overcome their situations. The webinar had also been tweaked to narrate stigma in this COVID-19 pandemic.

As Gronholm claimed, stigma in the healthcare setting has become common and also well-documented in other epidemics namely the “SARS, MERS and Ebola,” among tuberculosis and the HIV-affected and their families.

Meanwhile, Emergency Room nurse Pampilo Catapang Jr. and Saudi German Hospital (Ajman) Charge Nurse Chievan Rose Untalan, claimed they have been stigmatised because of the current global outbreak.

Friends had refused Untalan for meet-ups and invitations for fear that she is a “virus carrier.”

In the email, Untalan said: “It is sad to be discriminated upon. Depressing too. But I still get in touch with them to educate them about the disease. I tell them not to avoid me and not to be reluctant to go with me. I tell them to observe precautionary measures.”

Catapang Jr. “draws strength from God through prayers and (he) mentally (fortifies himself) with positive thoughts and through affirmations.”

Intrust Care Ltd. (UK) Care director Maureen Akhaine said that although discrimination is “officially illegal in the UK,” it still exists even in subtle ways: “To be fair, the English would do the same to their own white countrymen and women on the basis of how they come across. This is in accordance with the culture and social class. So it is more about adaptation than discrimination.”

Nurse consultant in Umm Al Quwain Amy Miranda is thankful she has not been stigmatised: “The UAE government always supports and ensures standardised professional development, education, awareness and equality across the country in both public and private healthcare facilities.”

From the webinar, it was learnt that The Allies Approach is a “set of digital and self-learning tools designed to improve staff resilience and well-being at work to reduce stigma for better healthcare delivery. Its effectiveness as applied in Khazakstan, the Philippines and Nigeria was presented by Resource Centre for People with Mental Disability (Latvia) director Ieva Leimane-Veldmeijere.

State Infectious Diseases Hospital (Nigeria) Dr. Udeme Inim vouched for The Allies Approach. He related how he was stigmatised as a future health worker, when he was still at medical school. He argued that as stigma is “universal” and cuts across society, this should be an open topic in order to be nipped in the bud.

Recently, noted American physician and immunologist Dr. Anthony Stephen Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” on the availability of a COVID19 vaccine by 2021.

Fauci, said to be among the world’s most trusted infectious disease experts, expressed his opinion over the video interview “Special Report: Coronavirus in Context” with WebMD chief medical officer Dr. John Whyte; a full transcript of which was emailed to Gulf Today.

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