People’s understanding of TB in a setting of high HIV/TB prevalence: case studies in Gugulethu Township, Western Cape Province
Tuberculosis (TB) infection is present in many people but it is sometimes latent until one’s immune system is compromised. As such, it increasingly manifests in people, especially those whose immune system has been compromised by e.g. HIV, as an opportunistic disease. TB is thus closely interlinked with HIV and efforts to eradicate TB have been integrated with the fight against HIV in South Africa. The study revealed that factors such as poverty and stigma - be it enacted or perceived - has an impact on how people with TB deal with the burden of having the disease. Using qualitative research as the choice of methodology and collecting data using observations, in-depth interviews and structured interviews among 18 participants the study focused on the ways in which people understand TB in an area that is known to have high HIV prevalence. The researcher explored people’s experiences with TB and investigated their understanding of the disease as well as explored how people on Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) make sense of and interact with this programme in Gugulethu Township. During the study it emerged that people have significant understanding of TB and its symptoms but their initial reaction to those symptoms is selfmedication and this results in delayed treatment seeking. TB is stigmatised in Gugulethu despite some people acknowledging that the environment itself is partly to blame for the rapid spread of the disease. The study revealed that there is good healthcare provision in Gugulethu and it is accessible but the burden of suffering from TB is a difficult one that requires family support, financial support and good relations with clinic and hospital staff in order for one to adhere to treatment and recover from TB.