The deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa also took its toll socially on the African immigrants in the United States, revealed an analysis of the news coverage of the Ebola scare. The findings suggested that African immigrants experienced stigma similar to communities stigmatized by the AIDS epidemic in the '80s.
Lead researcher Guy-Lucien Whembolua, assistant professor of African studies at the University of Cincinnati said, "There was strong discrimination against homosexual men during the AIDS epidemic and laying blame on that population for the spread of the virus. Similarly, in the early stages of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and amid sensationalized reports, we found a fear linked with African immigrants around spreading the disease in the US. Some of these populations felt they had to hide their ethnicity in an effort to avoid the stigma."
‘In the early stages of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and amid sensationalized reports, people feared that African immigrants would spread the disease in the US. Some of the African populations felt they had to hide their ethnicity in an effort to avoid the stigma.’
Whembolua further added, "Particularly in New York where there is a high Liberian immigrant population, there was a great deal of shame in being associated with Liberia. Children were teased in high school, or adults were the butt of jokes at work. People from Nigeria also were stigmatized by the Ebola scare, resulting in stress and hardships for these populations."
The researchers added, "Understanding this stigma faced by African communities in the US could help improve health promotion programs targeting immigrants. The outbreak highlights a need for research on infectious disease that is relatively unknown in the US and the Western world."
This study was presented at the 143rd American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago.