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Never let disease stigma hold you back

We live in societies where judgment is the norm. Everything that goes on is constantly being judged by others, either positively or negatively. Affliction with disease isn’t spared either. There is a lot of stigma associated with various medical conditions, leaving those suffering from such conditions in disgraceful and embarrassing states of mind.

You possibly already know of some medical conditions which have been stamped with the mark of shame by society. Examples are mental diseases, physically disfiguring conditions, infertility, incontinence, and many others. No one really gets a choice of what to get afflicted with. Disease states are a result of many factors, some completely unavoidable. Stigmatizing some disease states isn’t ever acceptable. Each medical condition should be viewed as any other. Those afflicted should always attract a measure of sympathy, and appropriate medical help.

If you harbor what may already be viewed as a shameful disease, you shouldn’t accept such a misguided societal view. Better to seek appropriate help. Many so called stigmatizing conditions can easily be cured with appropriate medical treatment. If a cure isn’t achievable, symptoms may be controllable to the point that a near normal lifestyle can be achieved. It’s no use keeping yourself hidden away, getting to an appropriate specialist is the right thing to do. Those who care for those with stigmatizing conditions should always be the first ones to speak up against such stigma. You will even find many organizations that advocate for the unduly stigmatized folk.

You should always trust that healthcare workers are never judgmental. True, there are some who may look at you weirdly, and think you have been careless if show up with an avoidable embarrassing condition. An example is some completely avoidable, but really embarrassing sexual infections. Most medics have seen it all. Their interest is not judging you as a person. Rather, all they care about is to provide you with the most appropriate treatment. And advise on steps you can take to avoid such afflictions in the future. So don’t lock yourself up and wish away some ailment you think is stigmatizing. Get out and get it sorted quick, and move on healthily thereafter.

If you are the judgmental type and think you’d never get afflicted by some shameful conditions, think again. So called embarrassing conditions have a knack of creeping up unexpectedly. As you age, some bits start becoming loose. Sooner or later you may pee or poo on yourself uncontrollably, eventually requiring help to control your sphincters. You should therefore resist the temptation to think that some conditions only affect ‘others’. You too could be a culprit, regardless of your prevailing good health status. So the next time you get tempted ridicule those with stigmatizing conditions, take a really hard look at yourself first.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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