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Screening, diagnosis and care cascade for viral hepatitis B and C in Yaoundé, Cameroon: a qualitative study of patients and health providers coping with uncertainty and unbearable costs

Abstract : Objectives To document patients’ and healthcare professionals’ (HCP) experiences with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) diagnosis and care, as well as consequences of these infections on patients’ life trajectories in Cameroon, an endemic country in sub-Saharan Africa. Design Qualitative sociological study combining in-depth interviews and observations of medical consultations. Interviews and observations transcripts were thematically analysed according to the following themes: circumstances and perceptions surrounding hepatitis screening, counselling and disclosure, information provided by HCP on hepatitis prevention and treatment, experience of access to care and treatment, social/economic trajectories after diagnosis. Setting HIV and gastroenterology/medical services in two reference public hospitals in Yaoundé (Cameroon). Participants 12 patients affected by HBV and/or HCV (co-infected or not with HIV), 14 HCP, 14 state and international stakeholders. Findings Many patients are screened for HBV and HCV at a time of great emotional and economic vulnerability. The information and counselling delivered after diagnosis is limited and patients report feeling alone, distressed and unprepared to cope with their infection. After screening positive, patients struggle with out-of-pocket expenditures related to the large number of tests prescribed by physicians to assess disease stage and to decide whether treatment is needed. These costs are so exorbitant that many decide against clinical and biological follow-up. For those who do pay, the consequences on their social and economic life trajectories are catastrophic. Conclusion Large out-of-pocket expenditures related to biological follow-up and treatment pose a real challenge to receiving appropriate care. Free or reasonably priced access to hepatitis B and C treatments can only be effective and efficient at reducing the hepatitis disease burden if the screening algorithm and the whole pretherapeutic assessment package are simplified, standardised and subsidised by comprehensive national policies orientated towards universal healthcare.
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Fanny Chabrol, Dominique Noah Noah, Eric Pascal Tchoumi, Laurent Vidal, Christopher Kuaban, et al.. Screening, diagnosis and care cascade for viral hepatitis B and C in Yaoundé, Cameroon: a qualitative study of patients and health providers coping with uncertainty and unbearable costs. BMJ Open, BMJ Publishing Group, 2019, 9 (3), pp.e025415. ⟨10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025415⟩. ⟨hal-02590815⟩

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