Setting: Study conducted in 23 randomly selected districts in four provinces of Vietnam.
Objective: To describe and compare health seeking behaviour between men and women and to measure delays in tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis.
Design: All patients (n = 1027) aged 15-49 years with new smear-positive pulmonary TB detected in the selected districts during 1996 were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Mean total delay to TB diagnosis was 13.3 weeks (95% confidence interval [CI] 11.5, 15.1) for women and 11.4 weeks (95% CI 10.6, 12.2) for men, including a patient's delay of 7.9 weeks (95% CI 6.5, 9.3) and 7.6 weeks (95% CI 6.9, 8.3) respectively. Doctor's delay was significantly longer among women (5.4 weeks, 95% CI 4.2, 6.6) than among men (3.8 weeks, 95% CI 3.3, 4.3). Women did not start seeking care later than men, nor did they have a different health seeking pattern. Women visited more health care providers than men (1.7 and 1.5 providers, respectively, P = 0.02).
Conclusion: Patient's delay is unacceptably long for both men and women. Women do not receive a diagnosis of TB by doctors or other health care providers as quickly as men once they seek health care. The reasons for this gender difference warrant further investigations.