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‘A Déjà Vu Moment’: Rural Communities Liken COVID-19 To HIV/Aids

JOHANNESBURG – Imagine being secluded to a rural village where virtually no government awareness programmes about COVID-19 are carried out, and your only source of information is community radio.

This is the reality for many rural communities, which can only access television via satellite and do not have access to reliable radio frequencies which links them with the outside world.

With not enough awareness about the coronavirus’ origins or workings, some rural dwellers have likened it to the HIV/Aids pandemic that wiped out families and communities in the 1990s to early 2000s in South Africa.

This week, Eyewitness News is casting a spotlight on how rural communities are responding to COVID-19.

WATCH: Timeline: A month of Coronavirus in SA

While Rose Maleka, a resident of Winterveld outside Pretoria understands the basics about COVID-19 prevention such as washing hands regularly and isolating, her understanding of the deeper ramifications of the disease is leveraged on the country’s experience with HIV/Aids.

“Even then we were afraid. People are now taking pills and they are looking fine. You won’t even tell that they have the virus. There will be a vaccine for this too. No one should fear, they must just do what the government says we must do,” she says.

“We were all terrified when we first heard of aids. And maybe those who died at the beginning of that pandemic, it was their time.”

Maleka’s understanding is not so farfetched.

Just as was the case with HIV/Aids, there is already stigmatisation around COVID-19, with some communities ostracising those suspected of contracting the virus.

This reaction is prevalent in townships for the time being, which is a indicator that Maleka’s dilemma with awareness is not limited to rural dwellers.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.