Aug 2, 2020 - Health

Stigma surrounding coronavirus could stifle response in Africa

A field hospital in Kenya.

A field hospital in Machakos, Kenya, on July 28, . Photo: Simon Maina/AFP

Arbitrary and sometimes harsh quarantine rules and a lack of information about the coronavirus have contributed to a culture of stigma around the virus in parts of Africa, which is approaching 1 million cases, AP reports.

Why it matters: Coronavirus patients were being treated “just like the way, early on in the HIV epidemic, patients were being treated,” Salim Abdool Karim, chair of South Africa’s COVID-19 ministerial advisory committee, told the World Health Organization last month. That's hampering nations' abilities to control the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Karim said it has led to people avoiding testing for fear of being ostracized.

What's happening: People at one quarantine facility in Kenya told AP their money was rejected by the staff and the surrounding community when they tried to buy food. At another, kitchen staff declined to serve sick people.

  • Central African Republic Health Minister Pierre Somse said humanitarian workers have been targeted because of beliefs that Westerners brought the virus to the country.
  • Aid workers in Uganda said the vehicles used to conduct contact tracing, with horns and sirens, have instilled fear in some communities.
Go deeper