Comparing the perception of community members towards leprosy and tuberculosis stigmatization.
BACKGROUND: Health professionals at all levels gradually recognise the impact of stigma on case detection and treatment of various health conditions such as leprosy and tuberculosis. These diseases are identified as chronic diseases which are prone to stigmatisation.
PURPOSE: To assess the perception of community members towards stigma related to leprosy and tuberculosis, in order to verify and compare the existence of stigma towards these two diseases in the community, and to provide baseline data for the evaluation of future de-stigmatising interventions.
METHODS: This study was done in four sub-districts of Chaiyaphum province. Community members were interviewed using the EMIC stigma scale. Frequency was used to identify the percentage of community members who perceived stigma. A T-test was applied to compare the mean EMIC scores of community members between leprosy and tuberculosis. A P-value of < 0.05 was considered indicative of a statistically significant difference or association.
RESULTS: It was found that community members perceived that people affected by leprosy or tuberculosis were stigmatised by the community. However, community members perceived more stigma towards leprosy than towards tuberculosis, particularly in terms of shame, embarrassment, and problems in getting married. The difference was highly significant (P = 0.001, paired t-test).
CONCLUSION: The community's perceived stigma against people affected by either leprosy or tuberculosis may affect many aspects of their lives. The authors recommend use of strategically targeted de-stigmatising interventions that take local attitudes and perceptions into consideration.