Tuberculosis knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs among North Carolinians at increased risk of infection

N C Med J. 2008 Jan-Feb;69(1):14-20.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to capture and describe knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about tuberculosis (TB) among persons at high risk for TB infection.

Methods: We conducted 11 focus groups in 3 different populations at high risk for TB infection: Spanish-speaking immigrants, homeless shelter residents, and persons attending a drug/alcohol rehabilitation center. A standardized list of open-ended questions was used to guide discussion. Using grounded theory, transcripts of the focus group sessions were reviewed by 4 independent reviewers to identify emergent themes.

Findings: Participants (N = 52) generally understood that TB is an infectious disease that frequently affects the lungs and can be fatal if untreated. They also knew that a skin test can be used to diagnose TB. However, participants frequently had incorrect beliefs regarding the cause, transmission, and treatment of TB. Many participants thought that TB is transmitted in the same fashion as other infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus or aquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). A general sentiment of fear and aversion toward persons ill with TB was expressed.

Limitations: Focus groups were a convenience sample and subjects were not necessarily representative of the underlying populations.

Conclusions: Tuberculosis knowledge among high-risk populations is suboptimal, and false beliefs regarding transmission and treatment were common in this study. Knowledge regarding transmission of other infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS was frequently translated into incorrect knowledge regarding TB. Stigma continues to be a barrier to TB diagnosis and treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Perception*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / transmission*