Socio-cultural dimensions of leprosy in north-western Botswana.
A study to determine some socio-cultural factors influencing knowledge and attitudes of the community toward leprosy was carried out in north-western Botswana, where cases of leprosy have been known to exist over the years. The study was largely qualitative, using ethnographic approaches. The research was tailored in a way to capture the ethnic diversity of the region, in particular two ethnic groups, namely Bayei and Bambukushu. The name or symptom complex associated with leprosy was 'ngara' or 'lepero' and this was associated with bad blood. Knowledge on disease causation was lacking, which in turn influenced health seeking behaviour of patients. Patients were well integrated and accepted into the social structure of communities. Women caring for these patients did experience some additional burden and identified time as their major constraint in caretaking. It was apparent that the degree of rejection correlated with seriousness of the disease and extent of disabilities and dysfunction. The present pattern of health seeking behaviour needs to be altered, so that an early diagnosis can be made at the health facility. This will aid appropriate management and prevent occurrence of deformities and disabilities, which in turn will reduce rejection and isolation of patients. Education of community, patients, traditional and religious healers on various aspects of the disease, especially causation, is essential to achieve a change in the health seeking behaviour.