Coping with tuberculosis and directly observed treatment: a qualitative study among patients from South India

Vijayashree Holalkere Yellappa, Pierre Lefèvre, Tullia Battaglioli, Devadasan Narayanan, Patrick Van der Stuyft

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    BACKGROUND: In India, the Revised National TB control programme (RNTCP) offers free diagnosis and treatment for tuberculosis (TB), based on the Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) strategy. We conducted a qualitative study to explore the experience and consequences of having TB on patients enrolled in DOTS and their caretakers in Tumkur district, located in a southern state of India, Karnataka.

    METHODS: We conducted 33 in-depth interviews on a purposive sample of TB patients from three groups: (1) patients who reached RNTCP directly on their own and took DOTS at RNTCP; (2) patients who were referred by private practitioners (PPs) to RNTCP and took DOTS at RNTCP; and (3) patients diagnosed by RNTCP and took DOTS from PPs. Data was analyzed using a thematic approach with the support of NVivo9.

    RESULTS: The study revealed that TB and DOTS have a large impact on patient's lives, which is often extended to the family and caretakers. The most vulnerable patients faced the most difficulty in accessing and completing DOTS. The family was the main source of support during patient's recovery. Patients residing in rural areas and, taking DOTS from the government facilities had to overcome many barriers to adhere to the DOTS therapy, such as long travelling distance to DOTS centers, inconvenient timings and unfavorable attitude of the RNTCP staff, when compared to patients who took DOTS from PPs. Advantages of taking DOTS from PPs cited by the patients were privacy, flexibility in timings, proximity and more immediate access to care. Patients and their family had to cope with stigmatization and fear and financial hardships that surfaced from TB and DOTS. Young patients living in urban areas were more worried about stigmatisation, than elderly patients living in rural areas. Patients who were referred by PPs experienced more financial problems compared to those who reached RNTCP services directly.

    CONCLUSION: Our study provided useful information about patient's needs and expectations while taking DOTS. The development of mechanisms within RNTCP towards patient centered care is needed to enable patients and caretakers cope with disease condition and adhere to DOTS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number283
    JournalBMC Health Services Research
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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