Inevitable social stigma accompanies Ebola virus

Samantha Arriola and Edith Emeralda / Contributing Writers

Ike Isedebe was at the movies with a group of his African American friends when one of them sneezed. Someone replied, “Oh, Ebola, get away from me,”  said Isedebe, who is a member of the African Studies Organization and the chief of staff of UNT’s Student Government Association.

Of the 36,221 students enrolled at UNT, 3,081 are international, according to the International Student Statistical Report from the fall semester of 2013.

Esedebe has family from the United Kingdom as well as Nigeria, which is one of the top 10 countries represented at UNT. Only 7 percent of international students are from Africa. While the disease has become widespread in West Africa, the social stigma around the Ebola disease has become extreme at UNT and in the DFW area.

“It may have been a joke, but still, it’s a touchy subject,” Isedebe said. “Due to stereotypes and how society views things, people naturally associate [Ebola] with darker skinned people.”

Amanda Parent-Brito, a UNT Resident Assistant of Mozart Hall, voiced her opinion on Isedebe’s experience.

“Nobody should assume that only dark skinned people have it,” Parent-Brito said. “That’s really racist.”

Parent-Brito is from Dallas County and has family in Irving.

“A lot of jokes come from serious situations, so people will joke about it because it’s been so talked-up, but they need to be careful with what they say,” Parent-Brito said.

The ongoing situation is comparable to the stereotype that people use when relating AIDS to gay people, or SARS to Asian people, according to Beverly Davenport, an anthropology professor at UNT.

“Diseases get stuck onto a given group or ethnicity. Even though the problem extends far beyond those groups, the stigmatic disease remains,” Davenport said.

The Electric Eagle, a university satire and humor publication, published an online article about a UNT fraternity student who had been diagnosed with the Ebola virus. According to Herschel Voorhees, the director of clinical studies at UNT, the Health and Wellness Center received numerous phone calls in relation to this article.

“There are a lot of people that are very concerned about this disease,” Voorhees said. “But hopefully they won’t sensationalize it too much…Students just need to be more aware of what’s going on in the world.”

Voorhees said the healthcare system in the U.S. is more advanced than that of West Africa, so the disease isn’t as easily spread here. Students wanting to learn more about the disease can use sources such as the Health and Wellness Center or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Click below to view slideshow by Samantha Arriola and Edith Emeralda

Ebola and its Inevitable Social Stigma

Health care coverage available for students

Samantha Arriola and Edith Emeralda / Contributing Writers

It isn’t uncommon to come across a college student without health insurance these days. Business major Sabrina Santellan is one in nearly five million college students who are uninsured. Santellan was on her dad’s insurance policy for over twenty years, until she was kicked off recently because she wasn’t his biological daughter.

“He might not my biological father, but he raised me from when I was three. He and my mom divorced when I was 18, and I stayed living with him,” She said.

Santellan’s health insurance covered her prescriptions for birth control and Adderall for her ADHD. Now, without health insurance, she doesn’t have access to either of them.

Earlier this semester Santellan became sick on the day she had a test.

“I didn’t go to the doctor, because I couldn’t afford to,” she said. “I retook the test but it was twenty points off because I didn’t have a doctor’s note.”

Many students don’t realize that more and more college campuses are beginning to offer some sort of coverage. International students at UNT are automatically enrolled in a healthcare policy through Aetna. Domestic students can apply through the Aetna website by selecting UNT as their campus.

Students get the most out of the insurance plan if they go to the Student Health and Wellness Center, said Dana Sachs, Director of Administration of the Student Health and Wellness Center.

“We want to keep costs as low as possible for students,” says Sachs, “they do accept credit cards, so that’s an option that can help student’s break the costs down on their own.”

Abdul Alyahya, a first year student in the Intensive English Language Institute, was unaware that, as an international student, health insurance was already included in his tuition. He thought he was uninsured. Alyahya suggests the Student Health and Wellness Center use signs or email to increase awareness among students about health insurance.

Santellan notes both money and awareness as issues.

“A lot of college students don’t work full-time, if at all,” said Santellan, who used to work at a staffing agency. “There are so many options when it comes to health insurance. Maybe they should do seminars so students know more about it.”