Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
FELICIANO, Katia V. de O. and KOVACS, Maria Helena. Opinions about Hansen's disease among the members of patients' social network in Recife. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.1, n.2, pp.112-118. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891997000200004.
This article describes a study done in Recife, Brazil, between November 1993 and July 1994 to explore the opinions of the members of the social network (for example, family members, friends, and neighbors) of carriers of Hansen's disease regarding their estimation, interpretation, and management of physical manifestations of the disease in the time leading up to diagnosis. The sample consisted of 93 members of the social network, ranging in age between 20 and 70 years, who supported the course of action of 83 patients diagnosed in the study period. The analysis sought to detect differing capacities among the members of the patients' social network to discriminate between persons classified as cases (presence of disabilities or precursor lesions) or controls. The study found a lack of information about transmission of Hansen's disease and revealed a transitional phase in which there was expectation of cure along with a stigmatizing view of the consequences of the disease. Only one-quarter of the study subjects suspected prior to diagnosis that the patient had Hansen's disease, which suggests low perception of the risk represented by the disease and reinforces the idea that its physical manifestations can be invisible. The results reveal a profile of perception and management of Hansen's disease that favors its propagation and the development or worsening of its physical and social consequences.