Quality of life perceptions amongst patients co-infected with Visceral Leishmaniasis and HIV: A qualitative study from Bihar, India.
BACKGROUND: Co-infection with Visceral Leishmaniasis (commonly known as Kala Azar, KA) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is increasingly being diagnosed among patients in Bihar. This qualitative study is the first assessment of self-reported quality of life among patients co-infected with KA-HIV in the Asian context.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured, in-depth interviews and adopted an inductive thematic analysis to generate evidence on the quality of life of patients co-infected with KA and HIV. Patients were purposively sampled until saturation was attained.
RESULTS: We found that patients highly valued income or livelihood potential and health as indicators of a good quality life, and routinely went into debt accessing care in the private setup. This was due to perceptions of poor quality of care in the government setup and a lack of knowledge regarding available government services at the district level. KA symptoms were often misdiagnosed in the private sector as seasonal fever, while care providers found it difficult to disentangle the clinical symptoms of KA and HIV; hence, patients presented late to district hospitals. Patients perceived a high level of stigma, largely due to their HIV status, and routinely reported that HIV had "destroyed" their life.
CONCLUSIONS: Inadequate social support and referral pathways that were not conducive to patient needs negatively impacted patients' quality of life. The dual burden of poverty interacting with the severity and chronicity of KA-HIV co-infection means financial support, increased community engagement, and collaborative decision making are crucial for co-infected patients. Increased provider awareness of co-infection and effective stigma-reduction interventions should be integrated to ensure that appropriate and effective access to care is possible for this vulnerable population. A sustainable long-term strategy requires a people-centered approach wherein the perceptions and life circumstances of patients are taken into account in the medical decision making process.