What’s the other symptom of COVID-19? Stigma

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By Fareeza Haniff

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I never thought I was immune to contracting COVID-19 having reported and read the plethora of articles about the deadly disease over the past two years. But what never occurred to me is the level of stigma and discrimination attached to the virus and the massive impact it could have on one’s family.

This became clear to me after I tested positive on December 30, 2021, and remained isolated at my house for over two weeks.

Having informed everyone else I came into close contact with that I was positive, I made my result public on my Facebook page. Two days later, a man threatened my father to report him to the Ministry of Health for still operating his meat business.

My father did not take it as a meaningless threat – he told the man that I did not live there. He did not want to lose customers.

My brother also received numerous telephone calls – not out of concern – but pure panic. Someone even accused him of having COVID simply because I was positive.

Our maid was also victimised because she still came to work and all the whispers from people in the neighbourhood reached my family’s ears. Suffice to say, they were upset that I made my COVID status public.

I could not believe people were so ignorant.

The stigma and discrimination attached to the coronavirus are akin to what took place when HIV first hit the world.

In addition to battling my symptoms, including severe muscle pains, I had to worry about what people were saying and whether my family would lose business. It was a worry I didn’t have the mental capacity or energy to take on while in isolation.

I truly believe that being fully vaccinated saved my life

I want to believe that as a people we can grow more in our knowledge of this disease and become more sensitive towards those infected and their families who are affected.

Contracting COVID-19 has changed my life; ringing in the New Year alone and being isolated for over two weeks without touching anyone or seeing friends took a toll on my mental health.

I continued working from home but while that was a good distraction, there is that sense of loneliness that lingers; trust me, I love being alone but on my own terms – not the terms dictated by a virus.

There were days when the joint pains were so bad that I could not leave my bed; I lost my taste and my smell – food became meaningless. While isolated, I remembered my colleagues Mondale Smith and Imran Khan who succumbed to the virus last year and I wondered if that would happen to me.

But I am extremely grateful that my symptoms were not as severe and my breathing was intact. I received a lot of support and help from my family and friends and I am thankful for that support system.

I’ve never appreciated Vitamins C and Zinc as much as I do now. I truly believe that being fully vaccinated helped in a major way to temper my symptoms.

Even though the Ministry of Health “released” me from isolation 11 days after I tested positive, I still did not leave my house because I am now more cognizant of how I interact with people.

Like most of you, I am guilty of becoming lax at some point because it has been two years since we’ve been battling this pandemic. I am now ‘COVID free’ after receiving my negative result on January 14, 2022.

If you’re not vaccinated, I urge you to reconsider your stance and think about protecting yourself and your loved ones. Vaccines do not prevent you from contracting COVID-19, but they could keep you out of the hospital.

And finally, if you know someone who is infected, don’t shun them; treat them with the same level of care and respect you would want for yourself.

1 Comment
  1. Matthew says

    Good post my dear and good to see you keeping your chin up. Guyanese, like the rest of the world are fairly ignorant as to Covid and literally we all probably brush up against a Covid positive every day without knowing or catching it. Some get ketch!

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