Published on 30/06/2020

Coronavirus: Three poignant testimonies of stigmatised people

Combating stigma is one of the biggest challenges in the response to VICAP-19.

In many settings, including Africa, the situation is such that many people with symptoms of the disease refuse to go to health facilities.

These people are afraid, among other things, of being discriminated against.

On social networks, images of ambulances picking up patients in the neighbourhoods and transporting them to treatment facilities are regularly shared.

Their families are subjected to the accusatory gaze of their neighbours. This stigma does not spare health workers, some of whom feel excluded from the community.

ENDA Santé met three people who have been cured of COVID-19 and live in Senegal

For Daouda Diouf, Executive Director of ENDA Santé, "the coronavirus increases vulnerabilities, stigmatisation and discrimination of infected persons and affected families. It also raises the issue of preserving dignity and human rights in the care system. COVID-19 reminds us of the need to put in place strong social protection systems. To curb this stigma, ENDA Santé went to meet three people who have been cured of COVID-19 and live in Senegal. Through three moving and inspiring stories, these people shared with us their suffering in the face of this stigma.  

Ibrahima Diop

I didn't catch the coronavirus through negligence

"I was infected at my workplace. I was a contact case. Most people behave well, but there is always a small group of people who throw little words at you. Some people behave differently because you have had the coronavirus.

For example, some people call me "Diop corona", others call me "Coro". If the doctors who tested us positive let us go home, it means that we are no longer carriers of the virus. So people should behave well with us, as they did before.

They should also stop calling us little names like 'corona'. Even if it's in jest, it could be hurtful because no one wants to be infected with the coronavirus and be judged by others.

Mr F. (witness anonymity)

When I go to the bus stop, people point at me

"The health service came to my house three times. The first time, around 11am, our neighbours became suspicious. They were all out watching us.

When my mother went out to go to the shop, a lady asked her what was going on at home. She told her that everything was fine. At around 2pm, at prayer time, the health service came back to get me. When the ambulance parked in front of my house, the neighbours came out again. That's when they took pictures. 

At the moment, in my neighbourhood, even when I go to the bus stop, people point at me. I tell myself that I am stronger than that. I'm going to move on because sooner or later the coronavirus will be a bad memory. So it should not be a source of social division. It is unacceptable for people who live in the same neighbourhood.

Mr. N. (not his real name to preserve anonymity)

The announcement was very difficult

"The announcement was very difficult. Very difficult. Because before I told my family, I hesitated a lot, but finally I had the strength to do it.

Throughout my hospitalization, my family kept in touch with me. They would call me at any time to see how I was doing. Frankly, there was no stigma attached to me.

I really wish that all patients had the kindness and support of those around them as I did.