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Open Access Research article

Life experiences of patients who have completed tuberculosis treatment: a qualitative investigation in southeast Brazil

Ana Angélica Lima Dias1, Daniela Maria Falcão de Oliveira1, Egberto Ribeiro Turato2 and Rosely Moralez de Figueiredo1*

Author affiliations

1 Nursing Post-Graduation Program, Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), Rod. Washington Luís, Km 235, São Carlos, SP, Brazil

2 Department of Medical Psychology and Psychiatry, Laboratory of Clinical-Qualitative Research, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Cidade Universitária, Campinas, SP, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:595  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-595

Published: 19 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Despite being curable, tuberculosis is still a stigmatized disease. Not only is TB patients’ suffering due to its clinical manifestations, but also because of society’s prejudice, embarrassing situations, and even self-discrimination. This study aims to investigate psychosocial experiences of patients who have completed tuberculosis treatment in São Carlos a municipality in the interior of São Paulo State, Brazil.

Methods

This study, of a clinical-qualitative nature, sought to understand the meanings provided by the participants themselves. Fifteen individuals, who had successfully completed tuberculosis treatment, participated in this research. The sample size was established using the information saturation criterion. Data were collected by means of interviews with in-depth open-ended questions. Data were treated by categorizing and analyzing content according to themes.

Results

Regardless of all progress, this study found that TB still causes patients to suffer from fear of transmission, social prejudice, and death. Despite the fact that the emotional support provided by families and healthcare professionals is considered essential to treatment adherence and completion, participants in this study reveal that friends and colleagues have distanced themselves from them for fear of contagion and/or prejudice. Ignorance about the disease and its transmission modes can be found in the interviewees’ statements, which seems to indicate that they have become vectors of transmission of stigma themselves. Patients’ medical leave from work during treatment may be due to both their health conditions and their attempt to avoid social/emotional embarrassment. There are accounts that TB has caused psychosocial damage to patients’ lives and that they feel more fatigue and lassitude and have begun to pay more attention to their own health.

Conclusions

Healthcare workers should be aware of the ways TB treatment affect patients’ psychosocial life and develop strategies to mitigate these effects and provide opportunities for them to share their anxiety, suffering, and bio-psychosocial changes. In addition, healthcare professionals should seek to educate and, as a result, empower TB patients and their families with regard to this disease so as to break the existing vicious cycle of misinformation and prejudice.

Keywords:
Tuberculosis; Cost of illness; Therapeutics; Qualitative research