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I had Covid-19. And society decided to stigmatize me: analysis


It was the afternoon of June 3 when I received my test report of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as “detected.” It was done voluntarily, so it would not have been quarantined at Srinagar airport, where he intended to take a break. It was a rude shock and the next step was mandatory home quarantine. I started immediately by moving to a nearby apartment to avoid any exposure to relatives who may have been at high risk.

This quarantine has been a nightmare due to a cascade of events initiated by my neighbors who sent a written complaint to the district magistrate (DM) and the Station House Officer of the nearby police station, claiming that he was putting in Residents’ lives are in danger. danger. I could see that they were taking photos of me, the surrounding balconies and CCTV footage of me were also saved as evidence. I received a warning from DM following a police-registered First Information Report (FIR) saying that I should not move out of the facility until June 16.

It was a very unpleasant experience for me to see children who looked scared when they saw me and even a neighbor who abused me. I started receiving abusive WhatsApp messages from them and from the resident social welfare association accusing me of being a liar and a threat to them. The maid who used to bring food once a day to my door was attacked by a neighbor and that’s why she stopped coming. The local chemist who used to send medicine after a phone call also refused to send any medicine. The garbage collector also refused to collect the bags. The newspaper vendor stopped giving me newspapers.

Stigma is a global phenomenon and becomes prominent from time to time. Well-known examples include Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary), the asymptomatic typhoid carrier who was captured by authorities in the early 20th century. The injustice committed against African Americans stigmatized for spreading syphilis in the early 2000s comes to mind. The misconceptions related to HIV-AIDS are in our recent memory. Ultimately, it was Magic Johnson, the baseball star and an advocate for underprivileged youth, whose confession of being HIV positive greatly helped raise awareness of the disease.

I was reminded of the good old days when leprosy patients were supposed to wear a bell to inform others to be careful and stay away. This stigma is part of human history, despite the fact that it is a disease with low communicability. Leprosy patients used to be quarantined for life in colonies. Some of them, with physical deformities caused by the disease, are still seen begging on the roads that are transported in cars.

In this case, I have seen personal discrimination closely and also numerous media reports on patients and their families who are treated as marginalized. There are reports that the bodies were disowned by their families and were not accepted by crematories for their last rites. Don’t people living alone quarantined for the virus require even one meal a day? I am lucky because I have a separate place for myself. But what about asymptomatic people who don’t need hospitalization? Hospitals in Delhi and many other cities are already full of patents that need monitoring and special attention.

Are we turning Covid-19 into a kind of disease like leprosy to which stigma has been transferred? For now, we know the preventive methods to contain the spread. This stigma must be addressed through education and also, in extreme cases, by legally punishing the perpetrators. At the current rate of spread, who knows if you can be the next person on the line to get infected and then, unfortunately, be ostracized.

Upendra Kaul is a cardiologist, former president of the Indian Cardiology Society and the SAARC Cardiac Society, and a Padma Shri

The opinions expressed are personal.

Hindustan Times