BACKGROUND: Patient-centered care is pillar 1 of the "End TB" strategy, but little has been documented in the literature about what this means for people living with rifampicin-resistant (RR-TB). Optimizing care for such individuals requires a better understanding of the challenges they face and the support they need.
METHODS: A qualitative study was done among persons living with RR-TB and members of their support network. A purposive sample was selected from a larger study population and open-ended interviews were conducted using a semi-standard interview guide. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and the content analyzed using an iterative thematic analysis based in grounded theory.
RESULTS: 16 participants were interviewed from three different provinces. Four distinct periods in which support was needed were identified: 1) pre-diagnosis; 2) pre-treatment; 3) treatment; and 4) post-treatment. Challenges common in all four periods included: socioeconomic issues, centralized care, and the need for better counseling at multiple levels.
CONCLUSIONS: Beyond being a "very humiliating illness", RR-TB robs people of their physical, social, economic, psychological, and emotional well-being far beyond the period when treatment is being administered. Efforts to tackle these issues are as important as new drugs and diagnostics in the fight against TB.