How to Stop the Stigma That’s Spreading with COVID-19

History has shown that pandemics tend to provoke stigma and xenophobia. This was the case with HIV/AIDS, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). We are now seeing this trend in the case of COVID-19.

In the face of social distancing, uncertainty, and massive disruptions to our daily routines—all brought on by COVID-19ؙ—we are seeing inspirational acts of people showing kindness and support to others in their communities. Unfortunately, we are also seeing victim-blaming, intolerance, hostility, and the promotion of xenophobic beliefs.

Why is COVID-19 Causing Stigma?

The degree of social stigma associated with COVID-19 is because it is new. There are many unknowns, which in turn can create fear and blame towards others. The outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behavior towards anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus (including healthcare workers and people form certain geographic regions).

What Impact does Stigma Have?

Stigma creates barriers, which can discourage those who are stigmatized from adopting healthy behaviors.

“Stigma excludes people and makes them less likely to approach healthcare,” says Barbara Green, PhD, Medical Director of South Shore Health’s Youth Health Connection. “In an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation and rumors, it’s important to get the facts so these barriers of exclusion don’t potentially contribute to more severe health problems.”

What Can We Do to Stop the Spread of Stigma?

Share accurate information from reliable sources. There is not one group, ethnicity, or population that is more likely to get or spread the coronavirus than any other.

South Shore Health continues to work closely with state and federal officials as we learn more about COVID-19, and our Incident Command team continues to work around the clock to meet the needs of our community as the situation evolves. 

This the moment for heroism to shine. Even the simplest acts of kindness, compassion and empathy are felt so deeply in times of uncertainty.

No act is too simple, no moment too small, to bring comfort and healing. Remember, we’re all in this together!

Learn more about South Shore Health’s response to COVID-19.