Amid the whirlwind of the fast-spreading Covid-19 global pandemic, I decided to travel back home from the United Kingdom (UK), unsuspecting of what lay ahead of me.
Right from touch-down at Entebbe International Airport, I began to feel unwell with what started as a mild cough that kept intensifying by the day, while in mandatory quarantine instituted by government for all returnees. It was so terrible that there were days I chose not to talk at all because anything I said would trigger this cough that lasted for several minutes, causing me grave pain in my lower abdomen, chest area and muscles.
My anxiety sank in more deeply as I started to put the pieces together. While more and more people were testing positive for the coronavirus, I feared for the worst. I knew the risk was high, considering all the contact I made on my voyage in the UK and on the trip from the UK to Uganda.
While in isolation, on March 27, 2020, ministry of Health officials visited me and took my samples for testing. Two days later, my diagnosis was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus. The news that I was positive felt like a nightmare, and at that point, all I could do was cry.
Worse than the disease was the stigma being displayed especially in the news and on social media that sounded like a death sentence. I wondered if I was going to make it through.
On arrival at the hospital, the medical personnel were receptive and offered me as much help as I needed. Among other medical and hygiene practices that I was advised to adopt, what stood out for me well was what everyone else I saw on social media seemed to disregard wearing masks, washing hands frequently with soap and clean water, keeping physical distance and not going for social gatherings.
While in the UK, had the people in the community and myself followed these simple guidelines, maybe, just maybe, I would not have contracted the virus. I learnt a lot on how the disease spreads, its symptoms and what to do to prevent spreading it to others or contracting it again.
On April 16, 2020, I was discharged from hospital after several tests revealed that I had fought off the disease with the help of some of the medical prescriptions like face steaming and other medicines.
Upon discharge, however, I was to self-quarantine for another fourteen days upon which, if I do not present further symptoms, I would be tested and declared Covid-19-free and allowed to get back into the public.
I was excited to finally leave hospital, but what bothered me even more was how the society was going to receive me; how people would look at me; if my old friends would still associate with me like they used to before all of this. Apart from my immediate family, many people did not want to associate with me, especially physically.
I kept wishing I could turn things around. I had already accepted my truth, but the demeanor of those around kept weighing me down. Feeling not wanted or accepted by even people you care for the most is not something I wish on anyone.
Whereas it is normal to have fear of contracting the disease, I believe it is only right that Covid-19 patients and survivors are not treated with contempt or looked at as outcasts. It calls only for a little empathy and acceptance as opposed to stigmatization.
Everyone is prone to contracting the Covid-19 virus, especially if we do not follow the standard operating procedures guidelines. All of us need to fight together as one instead of stigmatizing those that suffer from coronavirus.
In its place, show a little positivity, rays of hope and encouragement, enthusiastic jokes if you must, as a reminder of the victory achieved against the virus.
I am on my road to full recovery now from stigmatization like millions of survivors across the globe and beseech everyone to show support and compassion to those that have been diagnosed. Let’s do this while keeping safe at all times..
The author is a survivor of Covid-19.