Setting: Chiang Rai Hospital, Chiang Rai Province, the epicentre of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Thailand.
Objective: To describe the health seeking behaviour among tuberculosis (TB) patients, to measure patient and provider delays and to analyse factors determining these delays.
Design: All patients aged over 15 years with new smear-positive pulmonary TB detected in Chiang Rai Hospital (n = 557) were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: The median patient delays for HlV-positive and HIV-negative patients and those whose HIV status was unknown were 10, 15 and 15 days respectively, while provider delays were respectively 7, 7.5 and 10 days. HIV-positive patients suffered more symptoms and had a shorter patient's delay. Risk factors of long patient delay (>21 days) included being HIV-negative, having no health insurance, hill tribe ethnicity, no previous visits to the hospital, and borrowing money for hospital visits. Multivariate logistic analysis suggested that being married or widowed and being HIV-positive led to the shortest patient delay. Provider delay was significantly longer in female patients than male patients.
Conclusion: Although patient and provider delays were favourably short, certain specific groups require further attention. Hill tribe people should be targeted to improve accessibility to TB treatment. Active case-finding services for people known to be HIV-positive should be encouraged. The reasons for the longer provider delay in female patients require further investigation.