Stigmatisation Of Covid Patients Must End

Stigmatisation Of Covid Patients Must End
There is, and ought to be, no shame in stating “I have COVID".

We are living in interesting times indeed. As if the world is not inundated with news of the pandemic all around us, in contradistinction, some societal idiosyncrasies and norms have resulted in undue and unwarranted stigmatization of those who either have had COVID or are currently suffering from it.

Since we have accepted scapegoating and blaming the victim in cases of various forms of dark crimes including ‘honour’ killings or other forms of assault, we find it convenient to stigmatize our fellow countrymen for suffering. Because of either high infectivity or prevalence, or even so simply because of the irresponsible behaviour of those who refuse to take precautions such as masking, washing hands or physical distancing; why blame the victim?

When one goes into social isolation because of either being suspected of having been exposed to or being actively infected with COVID-19, they need all the empathy, support and affection of their loved ones, from at least at a distance. If they can't even disclose their diagnosis, they are further deprived of their right to be comforted and socially supported.

Subsequently, the affected individuals now have become extremely reluctant to state their diagnosis to physicians and family as well as friends, even if they are feeling better but are still COVID positive. The consequences can be disastrous as it may lead to unbridled spread of disease given its contagious character. It is thereby recommended to safeguard patients’ rights to privacy and confidentiality.

However, in matters of public health and Shariah principle of ‘masliha’, the larger welfare and what is good for society take precedence over individual interests. It is important from the perspective of healthcare professionals too that the society recognizes the dangers and high price they have already paid as frontline workers, and avoid exposing them to undue risk by suppressing symptoms of COVID or its proven diagnosis.

Thus, there is no shame in stating “I have COVID " and there is certainly no room for utterly irrational stigmatization of this potentially life threatening illness.

Prof. Mujtaba Quadri is Head of Nephrology at Maroof international Hospital, Islamabad.