Manifestations of tuberculosis stigma within the healthcare system: The case of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan district in Ghana
Objectives To explore the manifestations of tuberculosis (TB) stigma within the healthcare system.Method Twenty-one individual interviews (16 females and 5 males) and six focus groups (1 with health managers, 1 with staff providing services for TB patients, and 4 with general staff) were conducted among healthcare workers (HCWs) and the generated data analysed using grounded theory principles and procedures.Results TB stigma manifests in three broad and inter-related ways within the healthcare system: behaviour towards TB patients; attitudes towards TB work; and administrative procedures and policies of healthcare mangers. Healthcare workers expressed fear of infection when interacting with TB patients; a fear which intensifies after the confirmation of the diagnosis. For fear of infection, they shuned, avoided, and advocated the segregation of TB patients at home and in the hospitals. They sometimes maltreated the patients, and accused and blamed them for deliberately infecting others. Posting to TB units/wards is viewed as a punishment, with majority indicating refusal to work there or be trained as TB nurse/doctor. They maintained that those working at TB units should be given incentives. Health managers also situated TB units/wards in isolated parts of the hospital, and do not provide adequate tools, equipment, support and supervision for those offering TB services.Conclusions Fear of infection underlies the stigmatisation of TB by HCWs and worsen by administrative procedures and policies of healthcare managers. To help minimise TB stigma, a national guideline for the prevention of TB in HCWs should be developed as this may help protect them and alleviate their fear of infection. Rewarding and motivating HCWs involved in TB control may also improve their attitudes towards TB and those suffering from the disease. Furthermore, interventions to reduce TB stigma should be put in place, and the effects these may have on TB treatment outcomes investigated.
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