German: Social stigmas are bad for your health

Health Minister warns of the dangers of ignoring AIDS, breast examinations, suicide rates just because the topics are social taboos in some sectors.

Health Minister Yael German 370 (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Health Minister Yael German 370
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Social stigmas can lead to more illnesses and deaths, Health Minister Yael German said Wednesday, speaking about inequality in the health system at the Israel Democracy Institute's Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society in Eilat Wednesday.
"There is another aspect that not many people talk about - the influence of social assumptions, stigmas, and their influence on inequality in health," German said.
German castigated doctors who discriminate against AIDS patients, saying they have no reason to do so.
"There are people who refuse to treat those who have AIDS. Today, someone who has AIDS can take a few medicines and have a normal life," she explained.
The Health Minister added that any doctor should know how to avoid catching AIDS and has no reason not to treat those who have the disease.
German also talked about stigmas in the haredi community, explaining that ultra-orthodox women "don't look at themselves or take care of themselves." As such, she said, haredi women are less likely to detect breast cancer early, and death rates from breast cancer are much higher among Beduin and haredi women.
Another stigma German mentioned is suicides, saying not enough is done to prevent them.
"The country doesn't deal with [suicides] and I hope we will, because [the Health Ministry] wants to present a plan," she stated. "Not discussing [suicides] leads to 500 deaths a year, almost double the amount that die in traffic accidents and the government invests NIS 400 million a year on that." German pointed out that the suicide rate among Ethiopian immigrants and their descendants is eight times as high than in the general population, and in the elderly it is two to three times as much.
"The stigma causes us not to deal with the topic," she added. "We need to change our priorities to take into consideration topics that weren't at the center of our focus like suicides, psychiatric hospitals and inequality."