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Open Access Why test for tuberculosis? A qualitative study from South Africa

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Setting: Early testing and treatment initiation are crucial for controlling the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic, especially in high-burden countries such as South Africa.

Objective: To explore reasons why patients opted to test for TB and the context in which they were tested.

Design: This qualitative study was nested in a larger study evaluating patients who did not initiate anti-tuberculosis treatment after diagnosis. In-depth interviews were conducted with 41 patients across five provinces of South Africa.

Results: While most patients presented for testing because of their symptoms, unfortunately many waited until their symptoms were severe and thus remained infectious for longer. Outreach campaigns and TB screening at primary health care facilities were perceived favourably, although some respondents were unclear as to the nature of the tests being performed and had concerns about the implications. Positive health care worker attitudes towards presumptive TB patients contributed towards prompt testing and treatment initiation.

Conclusion: As patients often delayed presenting for testing, strategies to engage early with presumptive TB patients so that testing and treatment can commence without delay should be a priority for TB programmes.
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Keywords: perception; qualitative; testing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Research on Health and Society, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa 2: Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa

Publication date: December 21, 2016

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  • Public Health Action (PHA), The Union's quarterly open access on-line journal, provides a platform for its mission 'Health solutions for the poor'. PHA addresses the need for show-casing operational research that addresses issues in health systems and services. It publishes high-quality scientific research that provides new knowledge to improve access, equity, quality and efficiency of health systems and services.

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