Stigma Can Hinder The Fight Against Epidemics

Viruses, especially those that spread via saliva particles, can infect almost everyone. However, in many places around the world, contract a virus is also associated with a powerful stigma as members of the community will avoid the patients or even cause more problems for them.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, distressing reports were shared across the world. Some Indian doctors avoided tests to prevent problems with neighbors. Healthcare workers were forced to leave rented apartments in Nepal, and hostile individuals attacked COVID-9 help centers in Haiti.

Ancient responses

Since the dawn of humanity, our ancestors have shunned people who seemed to have an infectious disease. While this may have been understandable in the past, when knowledge about diseases and education levels were considerably lower, this is no longer the case in modern society.

Contemporary stigma is a dangerous phenomenon as it encourages people to try their best to hide the fact that they are infected since they fear the severe backlash of the community. Such an attitude facilitates the spread of a virus since the infected person will remain in close contact with other individuals.

Psychological roots

Stigma is often tied to an extreme fear of contracting diseases. Some psychologists argue that it surfaced as a social mechanism used to protect a group from becoming infected, in the same vein as disgust surfaced as a mechanism that stops humans from eating foods that could contain dangerous pathogens.

Previous studies have shown that many patients with HIV or AIDS tried to keep their symptoms a secret for as long as possible due to the prejudice associated with the virus, as it sparked a moral panic and many thought that only gay men, drug users, and sex workers could be affected by it.

More efforts are needed to prevent the stigmatization of COVID-19 patients if humanity wants to fight the pandemic as efficiently as possible.