COVID-19 triggered stigma, discrimination may keep testing rate low: study


‘Education and need for psychosocial intervention to deal with the negative impact of the stigma on individuals and families affected by COVID-19 continues to be vital,’ says Dr. Padmapriyadarsini

‘Education and need for psychosocial intervention to deal with the negative impact of the stigma on individuals and families affected by COVID-19 continues to be vital,’ says Dr. Padmapriyadarsini

Alongside the fear that India may not be conducting enough COVID-19 tests, the pandemic triggered stigma and discrimination against individuals infected with or vulnerable to SARS COV-2 virus, may be further slowing down voluntary testing, suggests top scientist from the ICRM-National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT), who in a study ‘COVID-19 stigma: Correlates and Mitigation Strategies’ found that 80.5% of the recovered participants of the study — that was conducted in seven States across the country in 18 districts — reported to have experienced at least one form of stigma. Further 51.3% of the respondents from the community reported severe stigma attitude towards those diagnosed with COVID-19

“Education and need for psychosocial intervention to deal with the negative impact of the stigma on individuals and families affected by COVID-19 continues to be vital,’’ said Dr. Padmapriyadarsini C, director NIRT.

The multicentric mixed methods study was undertaken by the ICMR-National Institute of Medical Statistics (NIMS) in collaboration with six ICMR institutes and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, during August 2020-February 2021. The mean age of the COVID-19 recovered respondents was 38.06 years, 69% were married, 61.5% had higher secondary and above education, 41.6 % were employed in the formal sector and 63% belonged to urban areas. The mean age of community respondents was 36.35 years, 71% were married, 54.3% had higher secondary and above education, 32.8 % were employed in the formal sector and 51% lived in rural areas.

“The findings of the study hold true even now,’’ said Dr. Padmapriyadarsini, explaining that people were not coming in for voluntary testing, in case it could be avoided, mainly to avoid the perceived inconvenience and the stigmatisation. 

The study further noted that experience of stigma varied among States, with 56% of respondents from Odisha reporting experiencing severe stigma, followed by Delhi (47.6%), Madhya Pradesh (44.6%) and Maharashtra (40%). Also majority of the community respondents from Odisha (74%) and Maharashtra (71%) reported severe stigma attitudes towards individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.

The paper noted that effective dissemination of health information that focuses on increasing awareness about the modes of transmission, prevention, and risks associated with COVID-19 was required to prevent and mitigate stigma. It added that visual, print and social media should provide the right information to encourage individuals to adopt healthy behaviours, to seek testing and treatment, to discourage stigmatising behaviours, and to avoid stereotyping language.



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