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This study explored the acceptability of cough etiquette, wearing masks and separation by tuberculosis (TB) suspects and TB patients in two districts in Uganda.


The study was conducted in Mukono and Wakiso districts in central Uganda. Eighteen in-depth interviews with patients and eight focus group discussions with health workers were conducted. Patients were asked for their opinions on cough etiquette, patient separation and wearing of masks.


Patients and health workers felt that physical separation was ideal, yet separation and masking were regarded as embarrassing to patients, emphasizing their potential infectiousness. Patients reported greater willingness to cover their mouth with a handkerchief than to wear a mask. Good counseling and health education were suggested to improve patients’ adoption of separation and masking. However patients expressed concerns about equity, coercive and stigmatizing approaches. Universal precautions were more acceptable than targeted ones, with the exception of separating TB patients. Lack of community awareness about airborne transmission of TB was identified as a barrier to accepting and adopting TB infection control measures.


Scaling up effective TB infection control norms and behaviors requires a patient-centered, rights-based, and evidence-based approach. Socially acceptable measures like covering the mouth and nose with a handkerchief should be promoted. We recommend that further studies are needed to explore how community advocacy impacts on acceptability of masking. Furthermore, the efficacy of covering the mouth using a handkerchief or piece of cloth compared to wearing a mask in TB prevention needs to be evaluated.

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TagsPrevention Qualitative Methods Stigma Experiences and Relations Uganda Publication


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