OBJECTIVE: This study explored beliefs contributing to Hepatitis B stigma, and the ways in which Hepatitis B stigma manifests, from the perspectives of people with chronic Hepatitis B as well as healthcare providers in Northern and Southern Ghana.
DESIGN: We used an exploratory qualitative design with a purposive sampling technique. Face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions were conducted. Data were processed using QSR Nvivo V.10.0 and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.
SETTINGS: Participants were recruited from one tertiary and one regional hospital in Ghana between February and November 2017.
PARTICIPANTS: Overall, 18 people with chronic Hepatitis B (PWHB) and 47 healthcare providers (primary care physicians, nurses and midwives) between the ages of 21 and 57 years participated in the study.
RESULTS: PWHB face stigma in their sociocultural context and the healthcare environment. Three main beliefs underlying stigma were found: (1) the belief that Hepatitis B is highly contagious; (2) the belief that Hepatitis B is very severe and (3) the belief that Hepatitis B is caused by curses. Stigmatisation manifested as avoidance and social isolation (discrimination). In healthcare settings, stigmatisation manifested as excessive cautiousness, procedure postponement or avoidance, task-shifting and breaches of confidentiality.
CONCLUSIONS: Given the prevalence of incorrect knowledge, as reflected in the beliefs about Hepatitis B, we recommend public awareness campaigns that emphasise Hepatitis B transmission routes. Also, given the manifestations of the stigma in healthcare settings, we recommend the development and implementation of a continuing professional development programme on Hepatitis B and adjusted policy on Hepatitis B vaccination for Healthcare providers (HCPs).