The Ghana Psychological Association has urged government and relevant state agencies to step up stigmatisation education on COVID-19 to maximise early reporting and reduce rate of infection.
The education, it said, must include developing several radio and television programmes on the disease including animation in different languages for different groups, as well as the use of recovered patients for awareness creation.
Speaking at a media briefing in Accra, organised by the Ministry of Information, Dr Charles Wiafe-Akenten Brenya, a member of the Association, attributed the situation to misconception by the public due to little knowledge on the disease.
He explained that “stigma is a general thing that has been in the society probably since the beginning of the world and every society one, way or the other, has certain things they stigmatise. In general, it might be your physical appearance, it might be your social group, it might be your profession and it can be any other thing.”
“However, in Ghana, under no circumstance are we allowed to use people’s sickness or illness, either congenital, accident or by lifestyle against them in any way…”
Dr Brenya explained that this had the potential to prevent people from reporting when they began to show symptoms of the virus, a situation which could derail government’s efforts at ending the pandemic.
He, therefore, cautioned the public to desist from stigmatising such persons as that could affect them emotionally, which could lead to self-isolation and discrimination, among other things.
Commending the media for their efforts in sensitising the public, Dr Brenya urged them to continue to solicit views from the experts for accurate reportage to mitigate stigmatisation.
He assured the ministries and the public of the Association’s continuous support with assistance from the Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, to provide counselling to those in quarantine, waiting to be tested and those who had tested positive for COVID-19, as it had done since the outbreak of the virus in Ghana.
He said the Association, in collaboration with the National Commission for Civic Education, would soon roll out sensitisation programmes to provide such supports to patients and end stigma.
Ghana has so far recorded 5,918 cases of COVID-19 with 31 deaths and 1,754 recoveries.
The current active case count stands at 4,133.