As Uganda continues to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, stigma and discrimination against Covid-19 patients and those who have recovered from it is still persistent in the communities and workplaces.
Such individuals are victimized in their circles and identified as threats, capable of transmitting theinfection, health experts have said.
During a webinar on Covid-19 communication by the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU), health experts identified strategies that will help to combat covid-19 related stigma.
Ms. Lillian Mworeko, Executive Director of International Community of Women Living with HIV East Africa (ICWEA) noted that one of the ways of challenging stigma and discrimination is speaking out.
“The moment we get more people to speak about it, then we can start reducing the level of stigma,” Mworeko said.
She noted that once victims are given a platform to share their experiences as part of the communication strategy, the messaging will improve.
“We have learned from HIV for instance, that when we work with people living with HIV, the situation changes; becomes real and normal since people are associating with those who have gone through the condition,” she explained.
Dr. Richard Kabanda, Ag. Commissioner Health promotion, education and communication at the Ministry of Health revealed that in their implementation strategy, stigma will be addressed with various approaches.
“One of them is the ‘my Covid-19 story’ which is going to be airing on all radio stations and televisions. We also have the covid-19 moment that is going to be on TVs and the essence of the ‘my covid-19 story’ campaign is to pick people who suffered covid to share experiences and also give hope to the public,” Dr. Kabanda said.
Adding: “This will reduce on the silence and have more of people’s perspectives.”
The people will be recorded and there will be a well-moderated and directed style of mass media to air these stories.
Dr. Kabanda further explored the diversities of risk communication amid the pandemic.
“Health communication is hinged on a number of covid-19 realities. However, many things keep changing and whenever these things change, communication aspects also need to change because health is a diverse area and its communication is very technical,” he said.
The ministry has rolled out the “Kijja Kuggwa” campaign (translating to ‘it will end’) where materials have been designed for families and communities carrying information on covid-19.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mark Mwesigwa, Country Director PCAU noted that people with non communicable diseases (NCDs) are shunning hospitals in fear of contracting covid-19.
“There’s an issue of fear among patients, who can’t leave home to go to where they are supposed to meet their consultants. Also, the regional referral hospitals have covid-19 patients and so more attention is given to them, than patients with NCDs,” Mwesigwa said.