Stigma in the time of coronavirus

Care for the carers: We have to make sure that the prejudice and discrimination healthcare workers are experiencing in some countries do not rear their ugly heads in Malaysia. — AFP

STIGMA is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. We have seen this throughout the history of mankind. In times of pestilence like the Spanish flu and the black death or plague, certain communities were implicated as the cause of it and subsequently ostracised. Incidentally, the Spanish flu did not begin in Spain but – just as China was the first to do during the current Covid-19 outbreak –Spain recorded, and accurately reported in the media, a high number of known cases during the 1918-1920 pandemic, hence its unfortunate association with it.

With HIV/AIDS, we used to see individuals labelled by their illness. They were not seen as individuals but as part of a stereotyped group. In some parts of the world we are seeing a similar development with Covid-19 where negative attitudes and wrong beliefs prevail. This prejudice has invariably led to discrimination – in this case, against healthcare workers.

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