We all knew how many years it took before an HIV person could believe that being tested positive to HIV is not a dead sentence, even though HIV/AIDs was said to be terminal disease without cure and possible treatment back then. It took almost two decades before persons living with HIV could be seen as normal human beings who equally deserve to live and enjoy their rights just like every other person. Many thanks to advocacy by international organizations, consistent public enlightenment via radio and TV and sensitisation by the NGOs who took it upon themselves to save HIV patients from being condemned and becoming social rejects. I can tell you, those who died of this ailment then were not actually killed by HIV/AIDs itself, it was people’s reaction to their situation that push them to the grave earlier than normal. There is likelihood that quite a number of them could have been alive now, if their families and close relations who stigmatised them showed them love and care which actually is the first step in overcoming any serious ailment.
Another era of stigmatisation is here again but this time from Ebola. How do I mean? Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to die of Ebola, but I tell you it is someone that will administer drugs and treatment to an Ebola patient. If those trained medical personnel avoid them and refuse to save their lives simply because they are victims then we are stigmatizing them. That is why, those two amazons: Dr Ameyo and Nurse Ejelonu would always have my respect even at their death. They saved many lives with their bravery! I have read stories of how medical personnel mistreated and abandoned suspected Ebola patients at the quarrantine centres in Lagos and other places even with all the protective costumes and masks given to them. The only way to contain the spread of Ebola VIrus Disease is by helping those at the quarantine centres in order enjoy their cooperation if not many of them will flee the centre, just like the recent case in Liberia.
Moreover, stigmatising and suspecting the wrong persons this period is possible. Today I read of a Liberian woman who had committed suicide, hung herself on a tree in the Lagos surbub. According to the report, the Liberian woman had been ostracised since the day Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian National, who died of Ebola at Lagos Hospital was announced. I believed she was stigmatised because people thought she might have caught Ebola just like Patrick Sawyer and perhaps because of her sickly looks. Therefore everybody refused to sell anything to her, nobody talks to her and in fact she became a plaque that everyone dreads. she became social reject in a strange land. Imagine how dejected anyone could be in such case. She eventually took her life so as to be free from it. So sad! She was wrongfully stigmatised.
Wrong stigmatisation is as evil as taking someone’s life. Dennis Akagha, Nurse Ejelonu’s Fiance is another person who is facing such stigma. He cried out recently that his job had been taken from him since the day he turned himself in as one of the Ebola Virus Disease suspect. He said everybody avoids him, some refuse to even shake him so as not to contract the deadly virus even after he has been confirmed cleaned from it. How funny!
Let’s face it, these people are not cursed. They are just victims of circumstances and it could be anybody. You can say I am just being sentimental but that is the truth.
Our orientation in this part of world needs to be changed. Let us imagine, Mr Pooley, a Briton who deemed it fit to travel down to Sierra Leone at early days of Ebola outbreak to save Ebola patients. Right there, he caught Ebola and was flown back to his country. If his countrymen had stigmatised him, would he have survived it. Upon recovery, he said, he would still love to come back to Africa to save more lives. Imagine such a heart of Gold! It is our attitude and reactions to so many situations around us that would determine how well we live and how happy we become at the end of the day. Desist from wrong stigmatisation!