Fighting Stigma Essential In Combating Covid-19

By Rose Mahorya

Mzuzu, November 6, Mana:  Health workers have been asked to treat their clients regardless of their status as one way of fighting stigma as the country continues to fight Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the officials of Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), Pastor Lilian Kumwenda was speaking Thursday in Mzuzu during Covid-19 response training for newly recruited Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) which was organized by MHEN in collaboration with Mzimba North District Health Office.

Kumwenda who publicly declared that she has been living with HIV since 1995 said in order to fight Covid-19, there was need to adopt  survival approaches to the existing deadly diseases such as HIV and Aids adding that  one of such approaches was to fight stigma which  impacts negatively on people living with such diseases.

“As we continue fighting against Covid-19, we hear of challenges which health workers face in tracing suspected cases of the pandemic or their contacts because people are afraid of declaring that were either exposed were in contact with a suspected case.”

“This is similar to what used to be in the fight against HIV and Aids as there was stigma and discrimination at its peak but later things changed when those living with the virus came up in the open to declare their status,” she said.

Kumwenda said the country could succeed in fighting the pandemic if people don’t stigmatize and discriminate those suffering the pandemic.

“There is need to fight stigma at all cost and it must begin with health workers themselves so that people can no longer be afraid of testing for the virus and give true information in relation to the same,” she said.

According to Kumwenda, stigma could be traumatizing but if it is addressed, a lot of people, even those who are survivors of the pandemic will talk about Covid-19 openly hence make it easy to contain the pandemic.

An HAS of  Kaweche Health Centre in Mzimba District, Martha Mkandawire said there was need to deal with stigma associated with testing positive to Covid-19 arguing that even though most people are knowledgeable of Covid-19, many families continue to hide relatives who are suspected to have the virus.

“We have had numerous cases of Covid-19 cases giving us wrong contacts just because they did not want to be traced further,” she added.

Mzimba North Acting District Health Officer, Kennedy Kaonga commended MHEN for organizing the training with support from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).