COVID-19 has caused unprecedented health, economic and societal impacts across the world, including many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The pandemic and its fallout have laid bare deep-seated social and economic inequalities with marginalised groups being at greater risk of infection and being disproportionately affected by containment measures and their socioeconomic consequences. Stigma is a central element to such inequalities but remains largely overlooked in the debate on the response to COVID-19, including in LMICs. Yet we know from experiences with other infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola that disease-related stigma is detrimental to halting and controlling pandemics and achieving equitable development. Emerging evidence suggests that stigma associated with COVID-19 is already taking hold.
This paper assesses potential driving factors of COVID-19-related stigma, and how this intersects with existing stigma fault lines and explores mechanisms through which COVID-19-related stigma may be counteracted, with a focus on LMICs.