Background: Health-related stigma is a great challenge to the treatment of diseases. In epilepsy like other conditions, it causes affected individuals to conceal their illness. In this study, researchers described stigma perceived by patients with epilepsy at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), a tertiary referral facility, and the Accra Psychiatry Hospital in Ghana (APH). They then compared the perception of stigma in patients with epilepsy to stigma perceived by persons living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (PLWHA), a chronic communicable disease stigmatized in Ghana.
Methods: A total of 351 patients with epilepsy were recruited from both sites by systematic random sampling and interviewed. The Kilifi Stigma Scale for Epilepsy was used to determine individual patient’s stigma score. Statistical analysis was done using multiple logistic regression analysis to control for the effect of measured independent variables that were significant on univariate analysis: age, gender, marital status, income, type of epilepsy, and the frequency of seizures, on the outcome variable. Comparative analysis of the mean stigma score in patients with epilepsy and persons living with HIV/AIDS was done using the Student’s t-test and Mann-Whitney U test (Wilcoxon rank sum test).
Results: The presence of perceived stigma using the Kilifi Stigma Score Estimation was 32.02% (62), 33.33% (49), and 28.88% (54) among respondents from KBTH, APH, and PLWHA respectively. Results from Wilcoxon rank sum test showed that the median stigma score between the three groups was significant; KBTH and APH (p-value; 0.0258), KBTH and PLWHA (p-value; 0.00001), and APH and PLWHA (p-value; 0.0000). Age (<40?years), seizure frequency, ethnic group (Ewe and Guan), and being divorced showed high odds for perceived stigma among KBTH patients with epilepsy. Having tertiary education led to lower odds for perceived stigma in epilepsy for APH patients with epilepsy.
Conclusion: This study showed that epilepsy is associated with a high stigma perception. The perceived stigma was greater than stigma in PLWHAs in Accra. Stigma was affected by unemployment, ethnicity (Ewe and Guan), and uncontrolled seizures. Increasing age reduced perceived stigma and the management of patients with epilepsy in a psychiatric facility might have impacted negatively on the perceived stigma.