The problematic unknowns about how stigma contributes to the spread of the coronavirus in Toronto


Inequality has been one of the determining factors in the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto, but what is less known is to what extent stigma contributes to the spread of the disease.The areas that have continued to see some of the highest cases of the virus are mostly in areas of the city with high rates of poverty, population density, and those with highly racialized populations.

In Jane and Finch’s neighborhood, speaking with those who have firsthand experience with COVID-19 is no easy task. In part, for fear of being associated with it.

“It’s about the fear of people looking at them as if they are contagious,” said Pablo Vivanco, the program director at the Jane / Finch Center, adding that tensions are already high in the region, which has been among the most difficult. hit areas of the city.

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“Everyone feels it… you walk past someone, you think they are too close and all of a sudden people get tense.”

Highlighting construction near the Finch West LRT, Vivanco said the area hasn’t seen many changes in investments to improve the area.

Local residents, many of whom have essential jobs, don’t have the luxury of working from home, and finding themselves crammed into crowded buses or crowded apartments has contributed to heightened anxieties.

“People who have had a level of exposure, who have been affected or worse, have been infected, they don’t want to go out and talk about these things for fear of wearing them when they move. , ” he said.

This fear of stigma is a worrying factor for Dr Raywat Deonandan. The University of Ottawa epidemiologist said fear of being negatively associated with COVID-19 could lead to problems for contact tracing.

“Now that we ask those infected to follow up on their contacts, the stigma could be a barrier to participation,” he said.

Deonandan likened it to the discomfort of contacting a previous sexual partner if someone had an STD.

“Imagine you are infected with a sexually transmitted disease and now you have to call your sexual contacts and say, ‘Hey, you might have been exposed to herpes,’ he says.

“This stigma is quite a deterrent to participating in this voluntary networking effort, so the same applies here.”

Toronto deputy medical officer of health Dr. Vinita Dubey said stigma and discrimination have long been issues in accessing health care.

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“Every neighborhood in Toronto has been affected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Anecdotally, we heard about discrimination and harassment faced by residents who are cases, ”she wrote in a statement to Global News.

“We continued to stress that where a person lives does not necessarily indicate where they picked up COVID-19. It is important to remember that there is not a single area of ​​the city that has not been affected by COVID-19. ”

As many people living in so-called “hot spots” live in collective premises, concern over stigma could be increasingly problematic.

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“Suddenly if you disclose that you are infected or potentially infectious, it compromises everyone around you,” Deonandan said.

In this case, he said there weren’t enough messages from public health units to say that contracting COVID-19 shouldn’t be associated with shame.

“A public education campaign to remind us that no one gets it on purpose and for so many people they get it no matter how hard they try,” Deonandan said.

“It would help a lot. ”

Vivanco is not so sure that targeted public information campaigns would make a big difference.

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“Telling people that ‘it’s not their fault’ does not necessarily allay the anxieties people have about their health and the health of their families and their ability to move around their communities,” he said. he declared.

Regarding the study of COVID-19, Deonandan said that when it comes to COVID-19, no area is sufficiently studied. But with so much attention to treatment, socio-economic and psychosocial elements are neglected. And that, he says, is a problem.

“This is going to have a lasting impact on our society well beyond the end date of the pandemic itself,” he said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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