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'We are afraid of them': Attitudes and behaviours of community members towards tuberculosis in Ghana and implications for TB control efforts

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One major set back to the success of TB control globally is the stigma attached to the disease in most societies. This article explores community's understanding of, and attitudes and behaviours towards TB and examines the implications for disease control efforts. Individual in-depth interviews and focus groups were held with community members and the generated data analysed using Grounded Theory techniques and procedures. At the core of feelings towards TB in the community is the fear of infection leading to imposition of socio-physical distance and participatory restrictions on those suffering from the disease. Because of fear of infection, most of the community members were of the view that TB patients should not be part of the society and said they will not marry a TB patient or encourage any family member to enter such a relationship. They also pointed out that TB patients should not sell in the community and would not be allowed to represent them at any public function because they can infect others. Whenever it becomes unavoidable for the community members to interact with someone with TB, they indicated that they would cover their mouth with a handkerchief, turn their head or sit in the opposite direction of the wind from the TB patient to avoid inhaling the air. When a TB patient joins the community members at any function, he/she is expected to abide by certain 'codes of conduct'. The stigmatising attitudes and behaviours of the community members towards the disease and its sufferers may lead individuals with very obvious signs and symptoms of TB to attribute it to other non-stigmatising conditions or hide the diagnosis from others as well as default from treatment.
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Keywords: Ghana; TB stigma; fear of infection; qualitative research; tuberculosis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, Queens Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK,Communicable Diseases Unit, Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital, Sekondi, Ghana 2: Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, Queens Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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