As Ghana battles to stem the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) through enhanced contact tracing and testing, adherence to social distancing and proper hygiene measures, implementation of a partial lockdown of parts of the country and increased education, those who fell victim of the virus are being stigmatised and this has to stop immediately.
First, it is no one’s fault to test positive for the virus and stigmatising or discriminating against such persons would deter others, who might be exhibiting symptoms of the virus, to call health officials due to the stigma attached. If others who exhibit symptoms do not reach out quickly enough, the virus would continue to spread and efforts to combat it would come to nothing.
During his regular press briefings, Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah was unequivocal in his advised against stigmatization of patients who have been diagnosed of Coronavirus and those that have recovered and reunited with their families.
To him, and the Business and Financial Times (B&FT) agrees with him, it is worrying and challenging to government and all stakeholders’ efforts in the fight against the virus and its impact on the economy. “Stigma has become one of the challenges that we very quickly need to combat,” he noted.
In recounting his experience, Fredrick Drah, a married man with four children who survived COVID-19, said he fell ill on March 17 and decided to get tested for COVID-19 which came back positive. He was taken to a specialised facility in Accra to receive medical care till he recovered and was discharged.
However, Mr. Drah revealed that returning home has been painful and full of mixed-feelings as according to him, he and his family have been stigmatised by neighbours in their community.
“Whenever my wife goes out to buy something from the stores around us, the stores refuse to sell to them. In some circumstances, even though they have the particular item, they will not sell it with the excuse they don’t have it,” Mr Drah said.
He added that children in their neighbourhood have also refused to associate themselves with his children even though every member of his family tested negative. Like Mr. Drah, the Information Minister pleaded with Ghanaians to desist from stigmatising people who have recovered from the coronavirus.
The Upper West Regional Minister, Dr. Hafiz Bin Salih added his voice on the subject of stigmatization, noting that it has become one of the biggest challenges in trying to fight the virus.
“What really is of huge challenge and concern to all of us is the discrimination and stigma attached to people suspected of having the virus. I wish to use this platform to appeal to all of us to desist from such acts of discrimination and stigmatization, in order to reintegrate persons testified to be freed from the virus into our societies and families,” he said to health officials in the region last week.
He urged the residents to see disease as any other diseases and accept anyone who gets cured and reintegrated back to the family or society adding that it is the scare of being stigmatized that is making people not willing to accept self-isolation and quarantine; but that rather is dangerous to the whole society.
Ghana’s situation as at Saturday afternoon
As at 1pm on Saturday, April 18, Ghana’s current positive test results, according to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), stood at 834, from a total of 60,916 tests. The number of deaths have also increased to nine from the earlier reported eight.
But the good news is that the total number of recoveries now stand at 99 with more than 90 percent of the cases in various states of improvement. However, the GHS said the new results do not represent new infections that are occurring. “It represents results from tests of a backlog of samples.”
Ghana is the second country in Africa to have conducted the highest number of tests after South Africa which has recorded about 2,783 positive cases.