Research Scientist, Dr Michael Owusu, has said emerging stigmatisation of persons that have tested positive for new coronavirus infection is a major setback in the fight against the deadly virus.
Dr Owusu, who is a researcher at Ghana’s second coronavirus testing facility, the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR), warned that the steady preventive progress being made to stem an outbreak of the pandemic could be undone when stigma deepens.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Ghana Connect on Friday, Dr Owusu recalled the Ebola situation of 2014, noting that stigmatisation against Ebola-carriers was the reason the disease wreak havoc in many African countries.
“Stigma was one of the reasons people didn’t want to own up that they are sick or they are having a fever. They hid in their homes,” he said.
He wants that to change and has urged the public to voluntarily come forward with information if they feel they have the disease.
Dr Owusu, who is attached to the Department of Medical Diagnostics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), said the next phase of the national fight against coronavirus would be to deal with stigma.
“The issue of stigma is a whole issue that we must deal with,” he stressed.
He said because doctors by themselves divulge the identities of persons who have tested positive for the virus, the absence of stigma could enable coronavirus patients to boldly come out.
When the patients come out themselves, Dr Owusu explains, it will make it easy for contact tracing.
That is when knowledge of the patients are public, people who may have come into contact with them will also come forward for testing.
But he warns the coronavirus patients will not confidently come out if stigmatisation persists.
His comments on Ghana Connect is in reaction to revelation by one of the persons infected with the deadly disease in Ghana that his biggest challenge while living in isolation, is stigma from some friends and family.
Sharing his experience on Ghana Connect, the coronavirus patient said friends and family who know his situation, extend the stigma to his wife and children.
Ghana confirmed its 16th coronavirus case on Friday, March 20, 2020, but fears are that the numbers may increase exponentially in the coming days.