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Ceremonial Discharges Seek to Fight Stigma for Recovered COVID-19 Patients

While the disease hasn’t claimed a life in Uganda, Moriku says there’s always a fear of the uncertainty involved with the disease as lessons learnt from elsewhere show that it can easily progress into critical and death. She said that while the physical toll could be disregarded, the disease takes a heavy mental toll.

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The ceremonial discharge of patients who recover from COVID-19 is intended to support them to fight stigma after undergoing treatment for the viral respiratory disease, according to the Ministry of Health.

State Minister for Primary Healthcare Joyce Moriku Kaducu told Uganda Radio Network that "when we see medics and patients dancing, they are actually dancing away stress and strains that are involved with COVID-19 treatment."

While the disease hasn’t claimed a life in Uganda, Moriku says there’s always a fear of the uncertainty involved with the disease as lessons learnt from elsewhere show that it can easily progress into critical and death.  She said that while the physical toll could be disregarded, the disease takes a heavy mental toll.

“We discharge in a ceremonial manner because of the success stories, the stress we go through, the stigma cases go through, the family psychological torture, all that deserves celebration,” she said.

More than 820 of the 911 cases that have been treated for COVID-19 in Uganda have recovered and discharged with a celebration which is quite often captured on camera and with speeches by hospital administrators and Ministry officials raising questions of whether this is scientific, sustainable or even necessary.

Dr Richard Idro, the President of the Uganda Medical Association says it’s not scientific but meant to reduce the fear in the community.

//Cue in; “It is not science…

Cue out… in the population.”//

However, other than dancing and singing, Behavioral Scientist Daudi Ochieng recommends more communication and speaking up by victims.

Calling for picking lessons from the HIV/AIDS struggle that has involved thousands of communication campaigns, he said that beating stigma and demystifying the myths and misconceptions about COVID-19 can only be done with consistency in communication and clarity.

For him, the less than six months that COVID-19 has been around is too short for behavioural change and that is why they are still challenged on ensuring people have masks on all the time while in public places.

He adds that while ceremonial discharges is what the medics have zeroed on, a lot more efforts need to be put in ensuring that people speak out about the disease.   

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