Lack of accurate knowledge and information among rural communities on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has been the underlying cause of stigmatization against COVID-19 patients, especially those who have recovered.
Madam Matilda Agamu, the 34-year old pregnant woman who had recovered from the disease in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region said the unfortunate situation had created fear and panic among residents in the region and called for intensive education from all stakeholders to demystify the misconception. The young woman who has been battling stigmatization since her recovery a few weeks ago, made the appeal through the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga and pledged to be a COVID-19 ambassador against stigmatization.
Madam Agamu was the first person to test positive for the virus in the region, however, even though she has fully recovered, her neighbours and friends avoid her and her family.
Narrating what she went through, Madam Agamu said she visited the Upper East Regional hospital with her husband with complaints of sore throat, dry cough, difficulty in swallowing and vomiting, which the health workers suspected to be the virus. Her samples were taken for test, which turned out to be positive. She explained that although she did not feel so ill throughout her stay at the hospital, she was surprised the news got to the public domain and people begun to shun her even after she had recovered from the disease.
“The day I was told I tested positive for the virus, I was not worried but I was surprised that people got to know about such a private health condition because I thought it would have been a secret”.
Madam Agamu explained that even though she had recovered, people still did not believe that she was free of the virus and members of the community and market women stigmatized her and family, making her movement and economic activities difficult.
She said she did not blame the actions of some members of the community because most people did not have much knowledge about the disease and so they were afraid.
“I am not bothered because it is lack of understanding. They are not well enlightened about the disease. Whiles some are saying the sickness is not there, others too are saying it is real. Even some do not believe that I am negative, but because some of the community members see some dignitaries visiting me in my house, they are beginning to understand that it is safe to talk to me”.
She expressed gratitude to all the institutions and individuals who had visited and counseled her and her family.
Commenting on the issue of stigmatization, Mr Pontius Pilate Baba Apaabey, the Upper East Regional Director, NCCE, said it was equivalent to murder and gross violation of basic human rights and urged the public to desist from it.
The Regional Director indicated that continuous stigmatization of persons tested positive for the virus and those who had recovered from it would not only hinder the fight against the spread of the virus but would make victims feel rejected.
He called the citizenry to desist from the act and join the efforts to combat the spread of the disease