Home Quick Links Press Releases

Social stigma affects Tuberculosis patients and families, hindering TB control efforts

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 23 April 2024: A first of its kind study has revealed the presence and prevalence of social stigma impacting individuals with tuberculosis (TB) and their family members. The National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP), under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), in collaboration with icddr,b, hosted a seminar to share the findings of the study, titled 'Exploring Tuberculosis-related Stigma in Bangladesh'. The study is funded by the Global Fund.
Stigma is often viewed as a process where individuals are unfairly discredited, seen as disgraceful, deemed less valuable, or even perceived as dangerous. The study aims to assess the level and dimensions of stigma among people with tuberculosis (PWTB), their family members, community representatives, and healthcare providers. It also evaluates how structural stigma, including policies and media coverage, impacts those with TB. 
The study, conducted from July to December 2023 across urban and rural areas of the Rajshahi, Sylhet, Chattogram, and Dhaka districts, employed a mixed-method, cross-sectional approach using the Stop TB Partnership's 'TB Stigma Assessment Data Collection Tool,' adapted for the Bangladesh context. Participants included individuals diagnosed with TB within the last five years, their family members, community representatives, and healthcare providers. Mr Nadim Reza, Technical Advisor for Public Private Mix at icddr,b, alongside Ms Tanjina Rahman, Senior Statistical Officer, and Ms Tamanna Sultana, Research Officer at icddr,b, presented the research findings.
The study revealed that approximately 28% of people with TB experience stigma during the first three stages of their treatment cycle—recognising symptoms, seeking care, and receiving an accurate diagnosis in healthcare settings. Around 22% of their family members also face stigma. Additionally, 14% of people with TB and 11% of their family members feel stigmatised even at home. The findings highlight a general lack of understanding about TB symptoms and transmission methods. The study also indicates that TB stigma disproportionately affects women, leading to blame, harassment, and financial difficulties. Healthcare providers, meanwhile, are demotivated by challenges related to maintaining patient privacy and a lack of recognition for their efforts.
The seminar was attended by Professor Dr Md. Titu Miah, Director General of Medical Education, Professor Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, Additional Director General, DGHS, Professor Dr Md. Mahafuzer Rahman Sarker, Line Director of TB-L&ASP, Dr Sayera Banu, Senior Scientist, icddr,b as dignitaries.
Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Executive Director, icddr,b delivered the welcome address and said, “Once, people were afraid to talk about tuberculosis, but now the name of TB is heard in any part of the country. This is due to the successful initiatives of the National Tuberculosis Control Program, the strong role of the Government of Bangladesh, and also the dedication of those who are involved with research and treatment at icddr,b. This is how we must work together to tackle the formidable challenge of TB.”
Director General, Directorate of Medical Education Professor Dr Md. Titu Miah, and Line Director, TB-L&ASP; Dr Md. Mahafuzer Rahman Sarker, addressed various issues.
The study highlights the widespread impact of TB-related stigma in Bangladesh, identifying it as a major barrier to accessing essential TB services. It calls for urgent action to address the structural and societal factors that perpetuate stigma, aiming to ensure equitable access to quality care and strengthen national TB control efforts.