A blind spot? Confronting the stigma of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection - A systematic review
Mokaya J., McNaughton AL., Burbridge L., Maponga T., O'Hara G., Andersson M., Seeley J., Matthews PC.
Background: The Global Hepatitis Health Sector Strategy is aiming for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Successful diagnostic, treatment and preventive strategies can reduce incidence and morbidity; it is important to ensure that these interventions and services are not only available, but also accessible. Stigma, poverty, and lack of knowledge may present a substantial barrier, especially in resource limited settings. We therefore set out to assimilate evidence for the nature and impact of stigma on the lives of people with HBV infection and on the community, and to suggest ways to tackle stigma and discrimination. Methods: We carried out a literature search in PubMed using the search terms ‘hepatitis B’, ‘stigma’ to identify relevant papers published between 2007 and 2017 (inclusive), with a particular focus on Africa. Results: We identified a total of 34 articles, of which only one study was conducted in Africa. Lack of knowledge on HBV was consistently identified: there were misconceptions about HBV transmission among the public, healthcare workers (HCWs) provided inaccurate information to individuals diagnosed with HBV, and poor understanding resulted in lack of preventive precautions. Stigma negatively impacted on health behaviour such as help-seeking, screening, disclosure, prevention of transmission, and adherence to treatment. Conclusion: Stigma is a potentially major barrier to the successful implementation of preventive, diagnostic and treatment strategies for HBV infection, and yet there is very limited recognition of the magnitude of this challenge, especially in Africa. There is a need for more research in this area, to identify and evaluate interventions that can be used effectively to tackle stigma in HBV, and to inform collaborative efforts between policy makers, HCWs, traditional healers, religious leaders, charity organisations and support groups, to improve awareness and tackle stigma in HBV in Africa.