Knowledge, health seeking behavior and perceived stigma towards tuberculosis among tuberculosis suspects in a rural community in southwest Ethiopia

Gemeda Abebe, Amare Deribew, Ludwig Apers, Kifle Woldemichael, Jaffer Shiffa, Markos Tesfaye, Alemseged Abdissa, Fetene Deribie, Chali Jira, Mesele Bezabih, Abraham Aseffa, Luc Duchateau, Robert Colebunders
PloS One 2010, 5 (10): e13339

BACKGROUND: Perceived stigma and lack of awareness could contribute to the late presentation and low detection rate of tuberculosis (TB). We conducted a study in rural southwest Ethiopia among TB suspects to assess knowledge about and stigma towards TB and their health seeking behavior.

METHODS: A community based cross sectional survey was conducted from February to March 2009 in the Gilgel Gibe field research area. Any person 15 years and above with cough for at least 2 weeks was considered a TB suspect and included in the study. Data were collected by trained personnel using a pretested structured questionnaire. Logistic regression analysis was done using SPSS 15.0 statistical software.

RESULTS: Of the 476 pulmonary TB suspects, 395 (83.0%) had ever heard of TB; "evil eye" (50.4%) was the commonly mentioned cause of TB. Individuals who could read and write were more likely to be aware about TB [(crude OR = 2.98, (95%CI: 1.25, 7.08)] and more likely to know that TB is caused by a microorganism [(adjusted OR = 3.16, (95%CI: 1.77, 5.65)] than non-educated individuals. Males were more likely to know the cause of TB [(adjusted OR = 1.92, (95%CI: 1.22, 3.03)] than females. 51.3% of TB suspects perceived that other people would consider them inferior if they had TB. High stigma towards TB was reported by 199(51.2%). 220 (46.2%) did not seek help for their illness. Individuals who had previous anti-TB treatment were more likely to have appropriate health seeking behavior [(adjusted OR = 3.65, (95%CI: 1.89, 7.06)] than those who had not.

CONCLUSION: There was little knowledge about TB in the Gilgel Gibe field research area. We observed inappropriate health seeking behavior and stigma towards TB. TB control programs in Ethiopia should educate rural communities, particularly females and non-educated individuals, about the cause and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of TB.

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