TB: In the Blame Game, Stigma Wins

Tuberculosis Suspect. Treatment Defaulter. Non-compliant.

Describing TB patients in such criminal terms is common in TB research and practice, and it chips away at their dignity—fueling the stigma surrounding the disease, according to a commentary by Mike Frick, a project officer of the Treatment Action Group, Dalene von Delft, co-founder of TB Proof, and Blessina Kumar, chair of the Global Coalition of TB Activists.

The blaming hides the underlying reasons that patients fail to stick with their treatment: health systems and drug supplies, expensive treatments, and research and development shortcomings that leave patients with difficult-to-follow treatments that can cause disabling side effects.

A response accompanying the article, however, challenges the notion that changing the words could end the social stigma surrounding TB patients, and suggests that it could distract from the primary purpose of ensuring patients complete their treatment regimens.

The BMJ

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