Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Stigma linked to low turnout for COVID testing in Duhaney Park

Published:Monday | August 24, 2020 | 1:01 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Health workers sweep through Duhaney Park during a community surveillance exercise for COVID-19 testing in the area on Sunday, August 23.
Health workers sweep through Duhaney Park during a community surveillance exercise for COVID-19 testing in the area on Sunday, August 23.

Health experts have attributed long-standing concerns about stigma as the reason why many residents of Duhaney Park in St Andrew and surrounding areas shied away from taking advantage of free COVID-19 testing at the community health centre for much of Sunday.

Duhaney Park is one of more than a dozen hotspot communities in Kingston and St Andrew that are being closely monitored because of an emergence of COVID-19 cases.

The other areas include Patrick Gardens, Hughenden, Pembroke Hall, Cooreville Gardens, New Haven, Havendale, Molynes Gardens, Ziadie Gardens, Olympic Gardens, Waltham Gardens, Delacree Park, and Half-Way Tree.

As at August 23, Jamaica recorded 1,529 coronavirus cases, 622 of which are active.

From midmorning till well past noon, no one had turned up to undergo testing at the Duhaney Park Health Centre, and some residents who interacted with roving medical teams said they needed more time to decide on whether to be swabbed. The exercise was scheduled to end at 2 p.m.

“If anything, mi can walk go out deh. A nuh nothing because to how the thing a gwaan rapid, it look like it waa mash dung everybody, so mi might go check it out still,” Dervent Laing said as he tended to a goat.

Another resident, Ainsworth Foster, said that he was unaware of any specific cases in the community. Though he usually wears a mask, Foster said he would be willing to be tested - “but nuh right yah now”.

A mechanic who operates close to the health centre shared that roughly three months ago, there was one suspected case in the area and an ambulance picked up that individual. He said that that was the closest brush with the virus of which he was aware.

“Dem seh over yah a run rampant with COVID-19. I keep hearing the same thing. But since it started, there has been no major case here,” the mechanic said.

FEARFUL OF LABEL

But even as aides to the Ministry of Health visited homes and distributed educational material, a medical doctor at the health centre believes that many residents stayed away because they were fearful of being labelled positive.

The doctor, who requested anonymity, said that that reaction was not surprising because of the stigma associated with COVID-19. There have been anecdotal accounts of violence and threats to persons who have had the disease.

“It is concerning that it is being offered and no one is taking up the offer. If persons see you coming here to be tested, people in the community will assume that you have COVID-19, and because you may have the disease, people will scorn you and treat you differently,” the doctor told The Gleaner.

“This is the first time I have come to a health centre for this exercise and nobody has come as yet. But if people show up for testing, we still sort them out, even after 2 p.m.”