Here’s the most brutal irony of being an Ebola survivor: When you go home, everyone is afraid of you, but having survived the disease, you are immune.
“They called me ‘Ebola Man,’” John said. Neighbors wouldn’t let Isaac draw water from the well, and friends refused to come visit Janet. (The stigma survivors face in Liberia is why BuzzFeed News is only using first names.)
This epithet — Ebola Man, Ebola Woman, Ebola Family — is something Alexander Blackie hears all the time. Blackie coordinates community dialogues for the Carter Center for Mental Health. He’s a physician’s assistant by medical training, and with a small cadre of other health workers the Carter Center has trained over the years in mental health, Blackie is bringing together communities of survivors to help them brainstorm solutions to stigma.
“This can become aggression in some communities. Survivors want people to recognize them as human beings, not a virus. You see the anger builds up,” he said. “There are times a woman is discharged, and her husband rejects her. He leaves her and the children. Or a woman divorces her husband [after he comes home]. So how can we sit together, discuss this, and come to a settlement? We cannot find the settlement for them, but we can help in the process.”