Open Access Open Badges Research article

Treatment delay among tuberculosis patients in Tanzania: Data from the FIDELIS Initiative

Sven Gudmund Hinderaker12*, Simon Madland1, Martin Ullenes1, Donald A Enarson12, ID Rusen2 and Deudatus Kamara3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Årstadveien 21, N-5009, Bergen, Norway

2 The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 68 boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris, France

3 National TB and Leprosy Programme, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, P.O.Box 9083, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:306  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-306

Published: 12 May 2011



Several FIDELIS projects (Fund for Innovative DOTS Expansion through Local Initiatives to Stop TB) in Tanzania were conducted by the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Programme (NTLP) during the years 2004-2008 to strengthen diagnostic and treatment services. These projects collected information on treatment delay and some of it was available for research purposes. With this database our objective was to assess the duration and determinants of treatment delay among new smear positive pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) patients in FIDELIS projects, and to compare delay according to provider visited prior to diagnosis.


Treatment delay among new smear positive TB patients was recorded for each patient at treatment initiation and this information was available and fairly complete in 6 out of 57 districts with FIDELIS projects enrolling patients between 2004 and 2007; other districts had discarded their forms at the time of analysis. It was analysed as a cross sectional study.


We included 1161 cases, 10% of all patients recruited in the FIDELIS projects in Tanzania. Median delay was 12 weeks. The median duration of cough, weight loss and haemoptysis was 12, 8 and 3 weeks, respectively. Compared to Hai district Handeni had patients with longer delays and Mbozi had patients with shorter delays. Urban and rural patients reported similar delays. Patients aged 15-24 years and patients of 65 years or older had longer delays. Patients reporting contact with traditional healers before diagnosis had a median delay of 15 weeks compared to 12 weeks among those who did not. Patients with dyspnoea and with diarrhoea had longer delays.


In this patient sample in Tanzania half of the new smear positive pulmonary tuberculosis patients had a treatment delay longer than 12 weeks. Delay was similar in men and women and among urban and rural patients, but longer in the young and older age groups. Patients using traditional healers had a 25% longer median delay.