Tuberculosis is a stigmatised disease. Both historically and culturally, it is associated with poverty, fear, death and shame.
Being diagnosed with tuberculosis may have major consequences for the individual in question and their closest circle. Myths and the lack of knowledge on the cause of tuberculosis and how the disease can infect people, as well as ignorance of the fact that it can actually be treated, help maintain the stigma.
Among other things, the stigma can lead to:
- The fact that those who are sick wait to seek medical treatment, which means that it takes a long time before a proper diagnosis can be made. In the worst-case scenario this may result in death.
- The fact that patients become lonely and isolated because they are excluded from social companionship or because they fear this. This can in turn mean that it becomes difficult to complete the period of treatment.
Tuberculosis patients in Norway represent a very vulnerable patient group. A large majority of the patients have an immigrant background and experience challenges related to this, such as language problems, problems orienting themselves in Norwegian society, a feeling of marginalisation and a weak social network. Many are tormented by the fear of infection and prejudices that exist among both Norwegians and persons from their home country.
How to reduce stigma?
LHL International works in many ways to reduce the stigma. Public education is important, because knowledge of the cause of tuberculosis and how the disease infects and is treated reduces the stigma.
We engage in public education in local communities in all of our partner countries, for example in markets, clinics and in the media. We also prepare and distribute information materials that present reliable facts about tuberculosis. In addition, we support former patients who wish to stand up in the local community and tell their stories or engage in peer support work. This is something that we know contributes greatly to creating more openness about tuberculosis.
Employment gives respect
LHL International also engages in income-generating activities in several partner countries. These activities contribute to reducing the stigma by giving tuberculosis patients an opportunity for employment and an income, and they gain respect from the community for this.