Covid-19 stigma a huge problem in Africa

It is the responsibility of journalists to provide reliable information on Covid-19
It is the responsibility of journalists to provide reliable information on Covid-19
Image: MICHELE SPATARI/AFP

Across the continent, stigma is still a big hindrance in stopping people from seeking help when they suspect they have contracted Covid-19.

This was a common problem African journalists and doctors shared during a webinar hosted by the Africa CDC on bettering reporting on Covid-19 on Thursday.

Dr Mercy Korir from KTN news in Kenya is a medical doctor and health journalist who has seen communities want to kick out people who had tested Covid-19 positive during her reporting.

“Most are still facing stigma…I was reporting on a story where neighbours wanted someone to move out. People are being discriminated against for having Covid-19,” she said.

Dr Emmanuel Agogo who is the co-convener of SHCCIN and a deputy director, laboratory service department at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said stigma ultimately affects public health efforts.

“Stigma is becoming a significant problem for tracking, testing and treating Covid-19 cases,” he said. Agogo added that responsible reporting will go a long way in ensuring that Africans are given the correct information.

Agogo shared findings from the Africa Public Health and Social Measures for Covid-19 Survey Report, which was compiled by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19 (PERC) on the impact and effectiveness of public health and social measures for the virus in 20 African Union states, including South Africa.

Agogo said the report found that there are numerous myths that Africans believe will help them beat Covid-19 such as drinking lemon and vitamin c packed products, believing that a hot climate prevents the spread of Covid-19, that Africans are immune to the virus and avoiding people who have healed from the virus will protect them.

He said Africans also believe that they have a low personal risk of getting the virus.

“Survery results indicate that even though the majority of respondents believe Covid-19 poses a significant national challenge, their perception of their own risk of catching the disease is far lower,” said Agogo.

Other panelists included senior health journalist from Bhekisisa Joan Van Dyk, James Ayodele from the Africa CDC, Aisha Salaudeen from CNN Africa and Eromo Egbejule from OZY.com

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