'They treated me like a criminal' - Covid-19 survivor describes her struggle against stigma

PHOTO: David Prado/Getty Images
  • Nosisi Jacobs, 33, says she was shunned by her community after testing positive for Covid-19.
  • Her three children ended up being quarantined with her because no one wanted to assist in looking after them.
  • Members of the Western Cape legislature have acknowledged her suffering.

Members of the Western Cape legislature have acknowledged the trauma and suffering a Cape Town woman went through after she tested positive for Covid-19 and was subsequently shunned by her community.

Nosisi Jacobs, 33, a mom of three from Langa, shared her experience with the ad-hoc committee on Covid-19 on Wednesday.

She tested positive two months ago and was treated at New Somerset Hospital.

"My community became very, very scared that I might be dangerous in terms of their health and they started shouting and all those things," she said through a Xhosa interpreter.

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"It made me feel uncomfortable... They started treating me bad."

Despite her children testing negative, residents did not want them playing with their children because of the fear of infection.

"What made me very sad... when the ambulance came there, the people started shouting that they don't feel happy and comfortable and safe around me."

Jacobs said people would walk on the other side of the road when passing her house.


"They treated me like a criminal. Even the police, they make it even worse putting that tape around [my house].

"I don't feel like I am a criminal. That thing causes a stigma and it is a very painful situation I am in."

No one wanted to help look after her children, she said.

Doctors arranged to have her children in isolation with her at the Lagoon Beach facility in Milnerton.

"I would like to have a special plea to the community. I would like to ask the people to please work together with people who are tested positive for Covid-19, not to treat them like strangers."

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While she was wary of returning to the community, she told herself that it was her home. 

Fortunately, her return was uneventful.


Committee chair Mireille Wenger thanked Jacobs for being brave and sharing her story. 

EFF MPL Melikhaya Xego recommended that trauma counselling be arranged.

"I know community harassment is a very serious challenge, especially if you are far away from your kids, fighting for your life and you don't know what is happening with your kids. She went through a very terrible experience," he said.

Chief Eric Galada, a traditional leader in Langa, has been raising awareness about the virus after testing positive for Covid-19 in May.

"This Covid pandemic doesn't choose a person who is rich or poor," he told the committee.

"It can just catch you anywhere, anyhow." 

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