Featured Article

Say No To COVID-19 Stigma!

Everybody across the world is facing the Covid-19 pandemic which has come with a lot of fear and stigma. 

With this in mind, many people slap a stigma on those affected with the virus, mainly due to a lack of information and understanding of Covid-19.

Why is it called COVID-19?

The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to avoid stigmatisation across the world. The breakdown of
Covid-19 is:

“CO”   è   Corona

“VI”     è   Virus

“D”     è   Disease

“19”    è   The disease emerged in 2019

Ignorance, fake information myths and rumours that cannot be backed by facts are the main drivers for the stigmatisation of those affected, or infected, by the virus.

According to WHO, the level of stigma associated with Covid-19 is based on:

  • COVID-19 is a disease that’s new and for which there are still many unknowns.
  • We are often afraid of the unknown.
  • It is easy for fear to be turned into a stigma.

Impact of STIGMA on society and individuals

Stigma can have dire results on a person or family.  People infected or affected hide their status to avoid discrimination and will, as a result, spread the infection.

*Thokozani Dlamini(*not his real name) knew he had tested positive for Covid-19, but because of fear of being stigmatised he continued interacting with friends and family. Instead of being in quarantine, braais and social life continued to dominate his lifestyle.  During the second week that he was supposed to be in quarantine, life changed drastically for him and his family.  He was rushed to hospital and admitted to ICU where he later died.  Unfortunately, his dad followed him four days after his admission, and sadly also passed away.

Don’t be like Thokozani as such behaviour can spread the virus like wild fire, affecting innocent lives. Stigma lets people behave differently and not adhere to Covid-19 protocols as stipulated by the South African government.

Stay safe and be bold while maintaining a positive behaviour! 

  • Don’t discriminate, rather support.
  • Don’t hide your “status”.
  • Seek immediate medical care.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle and behaviour.
  • Go for testing when experiencing symptoms.
  • Adhere to protocols such as self-isolation.
  • Always adhere to social distancing.
  • Be brave and wear your mask.
  • Sanitise regularly.
  • Show empathy.

Let’s not turn fear into stigma!

The Covid-19 virus changed our normal lifestyle in a matter of months to a new ‘normal’ and how we continue our lives with the virus around us. During these uncertain times, we feel fear and anxiety.  We all need to make collective efforts to fight the virus and act against putting people in labelled boxes.

It is important as a collective to stick to facts from reliable resources. We must stay conscious in our behaviour and keep on practising the necessary preventative measures as the best defence.  Promote behavioural change amongst your colleagues, friends and family as a start to fight stigma.

Dos and Don’ts to help prevent Covid-19 Stigma



Refer to the new coronavirus disease as Covid-19.

Don’t attach a location, culture or society to the virus.  It’s not the “Wuhan, Chinese or Asian” virus.

Talk about “people who have Covid-19”,  

“people treated for Covid-19”, “recovering from Covid-19”, or “people who died after contracting Covid-19”

Don’t refer to people with the disease as “Covid-19 cases” or “victims”.

Refer  to “people who may have
Covid-19” or “Covid-19 cases”

Don’t talk about “Covid-19 suspects” or “suspected cases”.

Mention people “acquiring” or “contracting” Covid-19.

Don’t talk about people “transmitting Covid-19”, “infecting others” or “spreading the virus” as this suggests intentional transmission and assigns blame.

Do speak accurately about the risk from Covid-19, based on evidence and latest official health advice.

Don’t repeat or share unconfirmed rumours, and avoid using language and statements to generate fear like “plague”, “disaster” etc.

Talk positively and emphasise the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures. For most people, this is a disease they can overcome. There are simple steps we can all take to keep ourselves, our loved ones and the most vulnerable safe.

Don’t emphasise or dwell on the negative, or messages of threat. We need to work together to help keep those who are most vulnerable safe.

Encourage colleagues, friends and family to adopt safe protective measures to prevent acquiring the new coronavirus, as well as early screening, testing and treatment.

Don’t allow stigmatization to stop you from screening, testing or medical care.

* Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)

High five to our health and frontline workers

Stigmatisation cuts deep into our communities and workforce as especially health and frontline workers, those working directly with Covid-19 cases in hospitals, wards and  other  medical centres, are avoided by their own communities, friends and sometimes families out of fear.

We celebrate your braveness during these difficult times, you are our heroes!

Stigma will NOT fight any virus only the right attitude and accurate communication of information will do!