Infectious Diseases and Social Stigma

  • Circiumaru B
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Background. Accounting historical facts: the leprosy, plague, and tuberculosis represented stigma examples; during our times, public health problems such as: the HIV/AIDS infection, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), viral chronic hepatitis, or tuberculosis, imply a certain degree of stigma, mainly for the regions where the essential human rights are a wish rather than a reality. The current task of this study is to examine, on scientific grounds, the reality of stigma for infectious and potentially contagious persons, in terms of the existing efficient treatment and prophylactic measures, focused on Romania's prevalent chronic infectious pathology: chronic viral hepatitis and the HIV/AIDS infection. The study also aims to identify feasible and efficient solutions in order to decrease the stigma risk. Methods. I performed an analysis, based upon reliable specialized sources, concerning the impact the HIV/AIDS infection, and chronic B and C hepatitis, both as national public health problems and on the individual level using the existing data from the "Romanian HIV/AIDS Division of Monitoring and Evaluation" and the opportunity that the National Institute of Infectious Diseases "Prof. Dr. Matei Bals", Bucharest, is a center of Excellency for chronic viral hepatitis. I critically appraised: infection sources, ways of transmission, pathogenesis, treatment and prophylaxis modalities as well as the existing legislation. Results. From this analysis it has been ascertained that a certain degree of social ignorance is still present, mainly due to the sanitary education deficiencies regarding the transmission of these diseases, therefore, even for the conventional relationship regarding these patients some degree of hesitation, frequently unjustified, is still present, inducing an undeclared but real social stigma. Our country's legislation corresponds to the European standards, and is quite permissive regarding these patients, offering equal medical service accessibility conditions, free prophylaxis and therapy, confidentiality and social contribution. The identified solutions in order to lower the social isolation risks were: increasing the medical education rank regarding those diseases, informing the sick persons on their legal rights and duties, not only by specialized psychological consult, but also by the creation of informing and socializing clubs for those patients. Conclusion. From a medico-social point of view, those patients' diseases usually have a chronic, insidious evolution, not being clinically expressed clearly as a stigma, until a certain point; therefore a large share of patients simulate normality status or even neglect the diseases. I must emphasize that those patients do not present a danger for the conventional interpersonal relations, although they could constitute an infection source in the case of intimate contacts or for the activities that could involve continuity solutions (e.g. military, operation settings, medical field, persons that look after children).

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  • B Circiumaru

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