Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psychiatrist

COVID-19 and Stigmatization

COVID-19 ve Damgalama

After the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO) to name the Novel Coronavirus “COVID-19” in March, this name was rapidly adopted by public health institutions. One of the reasons this naming was preferred for the disease was to prevent the virus from mistakenly associated with Wuhan and therefore with China.

From past to present, it has been a common practice to associate viral diseases with the regions and places they come from. Nevertheless, since 2015, the World Health Organization has been issuing directives to cease this practice and to diminish the stigmatization and negative effects, such as fear or anger, toward these regions or people living in these regions. Consequently, when a pandemic occurs, everyone is under risk regardless of who they are or where they come from, and viruses can infect all the people.

Then again, while countries are attempting to control the spreading of the virus, a couple of politicians remain loyal to this obsolete scenario. Donald Trump, President of USA, has associated the virus with China countless times. Brazilian deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of President Jair Bolsonaro, said it was “China’s fault”. Politicians in other places, England included, are also saying that China is responsible for this.

It is an irresponsible behavior to keep associating this virus and the disease it causes with a specific location, and it is imperative that such accusatory approaches be stopped. In his book, The Rules of Contagion, published in February, Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist of contagious diseases, reminds us of the fact that pandemics have led to the stigmatization of the societies during the course of the history, and he repeats that it is required to act more sensitively and attentively on this matter.

Preventing COVID-19 from being associated with the people of a specific region supports the prevention of discriminatory approaches. It is required to emphasize that we all are under the risk, to bear in mind that viruses do not make any human discrimination, and to do our best in order to prevent and decrease the stigmatization in this process.

REFERENCES:
Nature

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