Coronavirus is a new disease, and it is easy to be afraid of something that we do not understand.
In Zimbabwe, thousands of people have tested positive for COVID-19. As is the case all around the world, many people still have questions; will I catch it? Is my family safe? Who has the virus?
All these questions can make us afraid, and sometimes this leads to fear and discrimination. Many of those that have tested positive for coronavirus have experienced discrimination and stigmatisation, from family, neighbours and workmates. In some reported cases, neighbours have cut off neighbours who have tested positive. Some have even been refused service at the local shops, and others have faced social media bullying.
Much of this has been driven by fear and a lack of information.
Earlier this year WHO initiated a #SolidarityNotStigma campaign to fight discrimination of people who have been affected by COVID-19. The Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), has chosen to amplify this message within Zimbabwe. Under the campaign, people who have survived coronavirus have recorded testimonials on how they beat the disease and how others can be supportive of those who are affected.
ZRBF is a multi-donor program managed by the United Nations Development Programme, and co-funded by the European Union, the Embassy of Sweden, the UK DFID and the Government of Denmark.
Several celebrities, from singers and sports stars, have joined the campaign, urging fans not to discriminate.
Why is it important to fight against such discrimination?
Due to stigma, people may hide their symptoms. They get too scared to get medical help, and this makes it harder to deal with the disease. Emotional support, as survivors in the campaign have noted, is also important in recovery.
What can we do to end stigma?
Firstly, it’s important to note that 80% of those that test positive for COVID-19 recover. This means it is not a death sentence.
Secondly, words matter. The campaign is urging people to talk to people affected by the virus with respect.
The campaign is also pushing back against fake news around coronavirus. Spreading rumours and fake news adds to discrimination and even works against prevention efforts.
If you think you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call the hotline at 2019.