Covid-19 survivor struggles to shake off stigma

A Bulawayo Covid-19 survivor, says her life changed for the worst as she is still struggling to shake off the stigma and discrimination associated with the novel virus.  

The woman, popularly known in the media as Case 21, said being one of the first few people to contract the respiratory disease,  life has been hell for her entire family as they endured severe backlash from friends, relatives and the community at large. 

Her mother, a health worker, known in the media as Case 16, contracted the virus while taking care of a man who later succumbed to the pandemic, becoming Bulawayo`s first casualty.

Her daughter (case 21), two grandchildren and a tenant`s child later tested positive for Covid-19.

The virus in Zimbabwe to date has claimed 224 lives while 5664 have recovered from it. 

Sharing her ordeal during a female journalists round table hosted by Center for Innovation and Technology (CITE), Cultural Information Trust (CIT) and Amakhosikazi Media, Case 21 said “misrepresented facts by media sources cost the family so much in life they can now barely fit back into society”. 

She said her mother, a health worker who contracted the virus in the line of duty, was so affected that she temporarily lost her sanity due to what was happening around her.  

The survivor said owing to the economic challenges her mother supplements her income by selling chickens but since their ordeal people no longer come to buy at their house. 

She added that the worst part is they were never awarded an opportunity to speak for themselves on media platforms and how their story was told was different from what was on the ground. 

A media researcher, who is also working on a national media campaign to fight COVID-19 stigma, Dr Delta Ndou said reporters should disseminate verified information.

She said publishing personal information of Covid-19 patients is a breach of privacy. Even medical personnel, she said, have fallen prey to this misconduct.

Some affected people have had their pictures published in newspapers and on various media platforms without their consent nor that of the family members. 

Health expert Dr Solwayo Ngwenya reiterated that the virus is still fairly new and people have to constantly seek medical attention when necessary. 

“This virus is capable of affecting the brains or kidneys or any part of the body for that matter. Not much information has been found around it. People may think they are suffering mental health issues due to it yet it may be something worse than that. However, it is important to strategise on how to assist patients who would have survived the pandemic,” said Dr Ngwenya. 

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