Covid-19 patients face stigma in Bulawayo

By Pamenus Tuso

Loveness Gumbo says she will forever regret her decision to inform her landlord after she tested positive for Covid-19.

Gumbo in Zimbabwe’s second city of  Bulawayo, said she suffered at the hands of her landlord, friends and neighbours soon after she disclosed her status.

“BeforeI revealed my Covid- 19 status to the landlord, my relationship with him and his family was very good to an extent that I was considered part of the family,” she said.

“After the positive results they started treating me like a dog.”

Gumbo was threatened with eviction by her landlord, who told her he doesn’t want a funeral wake at his house. 

She eventually decided to seek alternative accommodation.

Another tenant, who tested positive for Covid-19,  said he had been given three months’ notice to leave his lodgings.

The two tenants’ ordeal might resonate with the experience of hundreds of others in Bulawayo who faced discrimination after testing positive for Covid-19 since the outbreak began last year, a city council report says.

Council said cases of stigmatisation of people with Covid-19 were on the rise in Bulawayo and the local authority blamed this on misinformation.

Sinikiwe Mutanda, councillor for Ward 10, said stigma will complicate efforts to fight the pandemic because people will be reluctant to go for tests.

“There is a lot of stigma associated with Covid-19,” Mutanda said.

“Fear of stigmatisation has led to a lot of families remaining silent when a relative dies of Covid-19 or when they suffer complications related to the disease.” 

Solwayo Ngwenya, the Mpilo Hospital acting chief executive officer, urged residents to treat people with Covid-19 just like those suffering from any other condition.

“It is not advisable for people to stigmatise Covid-19 patients,” Ngwenya said.

“There is no need to stigmatise people with any diseases whether its HIV/Aids, leprosy or Covid-19.

“Nobody invites that disease to him or herself. 

“We should all be sympathetic to all our colleagues, who are affected.”

He added: “There is a lot of information that needs to be disseminated out there to stop this stigmatisation. 

“The only way to counter these myths is to continuously give out information and educate people about Covid-19 and how it is transmitted.”

National Aids Council’s Bulawayo provincial manager, Sinatra Nyathi, said:

“Stigma continues to be an issue just like HIV, but we need to continue educating our communities that anyone can be infected and we need the psycho- social support to end stigma,” Nyathi said.

“We say l do unto others exactly what you want them to do unto you

“Let us make more noise to stop stigma because no one chooses these conditions.”

Misinformation and fake news has become a major challenge in efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe and globally.

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