High AIDS awareness may cause tuberculosis patient delay: results from an HIV epidemic area, Thailand

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ObjectiveTo elicit community perceptions about tuberculosis (TB) and the behaviour of TB patients in an area where significant public health attention has been focused on AIDS.SettingChiang Rai, Thailand, the epicentre of HIV/AIDS in this country.DesignEleven focus group sessions with a cross-section of the population.ParticipantsHealth centre staff, community members, persons having HIV, TB patients (with and without HIV infection), and male injecting drug users; five female groups and six male groups.ResultPeople had good knowledge of AIDS but they knew little about TB. Only a few female patients, whose husbands had died of TB and AIDS, recognized their symptoms as TB and immediately sought care. People defined persons losing weight, having fever and cough as AIDS rather than TB. This resulted in delay in seeking care and non-adherence to TB treatment in some patients who suspected they had AIDS, and feared AIDS detection. Most HIV-negative TB patients were also suspected by their relatives and neighbours of having AIDS. Most participants, except HIV-positive females, believed TB to be curable. Although less than AIDS, the community stigmatized TB patients because of it being contagious and easily transmitted through exhalations, foods and drinks and closeness to TB patients.ConclusionIn HIV/AIDS high endemic situation, increased awareness and stigmatization of AIDS and inadequate knowledge of TB can result in delay in seeking TB care and in treatment non-adherence.

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