Human Rights Day 2020: Know how discrimination due to disease can adversely affect COVID patients

Human Rights Day is observed on the 10th of December, every year. This year, as the day is being observed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme for the day is ‘Recover Better – Stand up for Human Rights’.


  • Human Rights Day is observed on the 10th of December, every year
  • This year, as the day is observed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme for the day also relates to it
  • Discrimination against patients with COVID-19 can cause a huge psychological and physical burden for the patients

New Delhi: With the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in early 2020, people have seen a new normal that has been tricky to get used to. With deteriorating mental and physical health, and stress and anxiety mounting due to the pandemic and personal reasons, discrimination due to being affected by the disease can be even more difficult to deal with. However, it is not the first time that people who are suffering from a disease are facing stigma or discrimination in society. For instance, people infected with HIV had to face isolation from society for a long time, and it still persists in some parts of the world.

Human Rights Day is observed on the 10th of December, every year. This year, as the day is being observed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, even the theme for the day – ‘Recover Better – Stand up for Human Rights’ relates to it. According to the UN, “We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.”

How discrimination due to COVID-19 affects patients’ mental, physical health

Discrimination due to disease can be very difficult to deal with. At a time when a person requires utmost care, they are abandoned by even friends and family, due to the stigma associated with the disease.

According to a study that accounts the effects of discrimination due to disease on patients, it was found that discrimination can take a wide range of forms, from explicit and overt to implicit and subtle. This also makes such discrimination difficult to prove or bring under any laws wherein the rights of the patients can be preserved.

Highlighting the different factors that lead to discrimination or the degree of it, the study says that the visibility and disease-specificity of symptoms and nature and age are some points that can affect it.

The study also talks about discrimination by employers – where they know that someone with the disease may need treatment frequently, and may not be able to work as regularly as someone who does not have any major health issues.

Another study highlights that discrimination of any kind can act as a stressor for patients, leading to poor mental health.

The study finds that according to data available on stress and its effect on health, stress can affect a person’s well-being in the following three ways –

  • Stress exposure can lead to a negative emotional state.
  • Unhealthy habits and behaviours, such as alcohol use, tobacco use, drug abuse, etc can stem from excessive stress. This can lead to disruption of body cycles such as sleep, exercise, and neglect of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Response to stressors can lead to structural and functional changes in multiple physiological systems, including the neuroendocrine, autonomic, and immune systems. These can cause considerable changes in overall health.

Apart from the above three ways, stress can also play a role in the onset, progression, and severity of illness.

While COVID-19 is a disease that can spread through physical contact, people can still stay socially connected to a patient. The whole point of observing Human Rights Day is to safeguard a person’s rights and ensure no one is discriminated against, no matter the cause of it. Remember what you hear every time you try to call someone on the phone these days – “Beemari se ladna hai, Beemar se nahi.”


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