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Free Content Gender and tuberculosis: a comparison of prevalence surveys with notification data to explore sex differences in case detection

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OBJECTIVE: To explore whether lower tuberculosis notification rates among women are due to a reduced access to health care, particularly diagnostic services, for women.

METHODS: Age- and sex-specific tuberculosis prevalence rates of smear-positive tuberculosis were obtained from tuberculosis prevalence surveys reported to the WHO or published in the literature. Age- and sex-specific notification rates from the same countries in 1996 were used.

RESULTS: Prevalence data and notifications from 29 surveys in 14 countries were used. Notification rates varied strongly among countries, but the female/male ratio was below 1 and decreased with increasing age in almost all. The female/male (F/M) prevalence ratios were less than 0.5 in surveys in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific Region, and approximately 1 in the African Region.

CONCLUSION: In most countries the F/M sex ratio in prevalent cases was similar or lower than that in notified cases, suggesting that F/M differences in notification rates may be largely due to epidemiological differences and not to differential access to health care. However, available data are limited as the prevalence surveys in Africa were carried out many years ago, and in Asia notification rates may be distorted by a large private sector with deficiencies in notification.

Keywords: case detection; gender; notification; prevalence surveys; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Royal Netherlands Tuberculosis Association, The Hague, The Netherlands 2: Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland 3: Stop TB Initiative, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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