Social constraints to TB/HIV healthcare: accounts from coinfected patients in South Africa.
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There is a growing imperative to improve the coordination and collaboration of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV healthcare services in response to escalating rates of TB/HIV coinfection. Patient-specific challenges associated with the delivery of TB/HIV care have been minimally explored in this regard. As part of a larger study conducted in South Africa, this article highlights coinfected patients’ experiences with TB and HIV healthcare in light of their broader social environments. Qualitative, in-depth interviews were conducted with 40 adult, coinfected patients (24 women and 16 men) and eight key-informant healthcare workers at three urban/peri-urban, ambulatory, public health clinics in the high-burden province of KwaZulu-Natal. Transcribed interviews were analyzed under a modified grounded theory approach to capture subjective meanings of healthcare experience subsequent to patients’ codiagnosis with TB and HIV. Emerging analytic themes highlighted critical sociomedical constraints to TB/HIV care in relation to patients’ income and employment, eligibility for social assistance and antiretroviral treatment, fears around illness disclosure, social and material support, and treatment adherence. Patients’ healthcare experiences were bound by their poor access to essential resources, multiple life responsibilities, disparate gender roles, limits within the healthcare system, and the stigmatizing social symbolism of their illness. Overlapping social inequalities perpetuated coinfected patients’ experiences with stigma and collectively mediated their health decisions around disclosure, adherence, and retention in medical care. The study urges a contextualized understanding of the social challenges associated with TB/HIV healthcare and helps inform more patient-sensitive and socially responsive interventions against the co-epidemic.
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