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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Exploring health providers’ and community perceptions and experiences with malaria tests in South-East Nigeria: a critical step towards appropriate treatment

Ogochukwu P Ezeoke1*, Nkoli N Ezumah2, Clare CI Chandler3, Lindsay J Mangham-Jefferies3, Obinna E Onwujekwe14, Virginia Wiseman3 and Benjamin S Uzochukwu15

Author Affiliations

1 Health Policy Research Group, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu, Nigeria

2 Department of Sociology/Anthropology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria

3 Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

4 Department of Health Administration and Management, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Nsukka, Nigeria

5 Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Nsukka, Nigeria

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:368  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-368

Published: 6 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The adoption of ACT as the first line treatment for uncomplicated malaria in Nigeria has concentrated attention on the role of testing in appropriate malaria treatment. There are calls at both national and global level for malaria treatment to be based on test result, but it is still unclear how testing can be incorporated into treatment-seeking and practices of health providers. This study explored community members and health providers’ perceptions and experiences with malaria tests in south east Nigeria.

Methods

The study was conducted in urban and rural areas of Enugu state in south-eastern Nigeria. A total of 18 focus group discussions with 179 community members including sub-groups of primary caregivers, adult men and adult women aged 15 years and above. Twenty- six (26) In-depth interviews were held with public and private health providers involved in prescribing medicines at public and private health facilities in the study area.

Results

Both providers and community members were familiar with malaria tests and identified malaria tests as an important step to distinguish malaria from other illnesses with similar symptoms and as a means of delivering appropriate treatment. However, the logic of test-directed treatment was undermined by cost of test and a lack of testing facilities but above all concerns over the reliability of negative test results, with community members and providers observing inconsistencies between results and symptoms, and providers attributing inaccurate results to incompetencies of technicians. Recognition of malaria symptoms was deemed most important in determining the use of antimalarial drugs rather than the result of a malaria test.

Conclusion

The results highlight important areas of intervention to promote appropriate malaria treatment. If tests are to play a role in patient management, demand and supply side interventions are needed to change people’s attitude towards malaria test results.