Background: We report a patient-centered intervention study in 9 municipalities of rural Nicaragua aiming at a reduction of internalized social stigma in new AFB positive tuberculosis (TB) patients diagnosed between March 2004 and July 2005.
Methods: Five out of 9 municipal teams were coached to tailor and introduce patient-centered package. New TB patients were assigned to the intervention group when diagnosed in municipalities implementing effectively at least TB clubs and home visits. We compared the changes in internalized stigma and TB treatment outcome in intervention and control groups. The internalized stigma was measured through score computed at 15 days and at 2 months of treatment. The treatment results were evaluated through classical TB program indicators. In all municipalities, we emphasized process monitoring to capture contextual factors that could influence package implementation, including stakeholders.
Results: TB clubs and home visits were effectively implemented in 2 municipalities after June 2004 and in 3 municipalities after January 2005. Therefore, 122 patients were included in the intervention group and 146 in the control group. After 15 days, internalized stigma scores were equivalent in both groups. After 2 months, difference between scores was statistically significant, revealing a decreased internalized stigma in the intervention group and not in the control group.
Conclusion: This study provides initial evidences that it is possible to act on TB patients' internalized stigma, in contexts where at least patient centered home visits and TB clubs are successfully implemented. This is important as, indeed, TB care should also focus on the TB patient's wellbeing and not solely on TB epidemics control.