Setting: The public health sector of Bangladesh.
Objective: To assess gender differences in access to tuberculosis diagnosis and in tuberculosis treatment outcome in Bangladesh.
Methods: Information on the age and sex of a sample of patients in 1997 was collected from out-patient registers and tuberculosis laboratory and treatment registers in 59 thanas in three divisions in Bangladesh.
Results: The female/male ratio was 0.79 among 42,877 out-patients with respiratory complaints, 0.51 among 5,665 tuberculosis suspects undergoing sputum smear microscopy, 0.36 among 869 tuberculosis suspects with positive sputum smears, and 0.35 among 5,632 patients registered for tuberculosis treatment. Treatment was successful (cured or treatment completed) in 86% of female and 84% of male patients.
Conclusion: Women in Bangladesh appear to have less access to public out-patient clinics than men, and if they present with respiratory symptoms they are less likely to undergo sputum smear examination. If examined, women are less likely than men to be smear-positive. No gender bias was observed in tuberculosis treatment outcome. It is recommended to focus further research on exploration of sex differences in the incidence of respiratory conditions, identification of constraints among women in accessing out-patient clinics and verification of the quality of sputum submitted by women for examination.