The lived experiences of tuberculosis survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic and government lockdown in South Africa: a qualitative analysis

Summary


Background
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major health concern in South Africa, where prior to COVID-19 it was associated with more deaths than any other infectious disease. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted gains made in the global response to TB, having a serious impact on the most vulnerable. COVID-19 and TB are both severe respiratory infections, where infection with one places individuals at increased risk for negative health outcomes for the other. Even after completing TB treatment, TB survivors remain economically vulnerable and continue to be negatively affected by TB.

Methods

This cross-sectional qualitative study, which was part of a larger longitudinal study in South Africa, explored how TB survivors’ experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions. Participants were identified through purposive sampling and were recruited and interviewed at a large public hospital in Gauteng. Data were analyzed thematically, using a constructivist research paradigm and both inductive and deductive codebook development.

Results
Participants (n = 11) were adults (24–74 years of age; more than half male or foreign nationals) who had successfully completed treatment for pulmonary TB in the past two years. Participants were generally found to be physically, socioeconomically, and emotionally vulnerable, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating or causing a recurrence of many of the same stressors they had faced with TB. Coping strategies during COVID similarly mirrored those used during TB diagnosis and treatment, including social support, financial resources, distraction, spirituality, and inner strength.

Conclusions
Implications and suggestions for future directions include fostering and maintaining a strong network of social support for TB survivors.

Reference
Scheunemann, A., Moolla, A., Mongwenyana, C., Mkize, N., Rassool, M., Jezile, V., & Evans, D. (2023). The lived experiences of tuberculosis survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic and government lockdown in South Africa: a qualitative analysis. BMC public health, 23(1), 1729. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-16657-w

Geographies South Africa

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