Lymphatic filariasis (LF) and leprosy are disabling infectious diseases endemic in Nepal. LF infection can lead to lymphoedema and hydrocoele, while secondary effects of leprosy infection include impairments to hands, eyes and feet. The disabling effects of both conditions can be managed through self-care and the supportive effects of self-help groups (SHGs). A network of SHGs exists for people affected by leprosy in four districts in Nepal’s Central Development Region, however no such service exists for people affected by LF. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of integrating LF affected people into existing leprosy SHGs in this area.
A survey was conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire to elicit information on: (i) participant characteristics, clinical manifestation and disease burden; (ii) participants’ knowledge of management of their condition and access to services; and (iii) participants’ knowledge and perceptions of the alternate condition (LF affected participants’ knowledge of leprosy and vice versa) and attitudes towards integration.
A total of 52 LF affected and 53 leprosy affected participants were interviewed from 14 SHGs. On average, leprosy affected participants were shown to have 1.8 times greater knowledge of self-care techniques, and practiced 2.5 times more frequently than LF affected participants. Only a quarter of LF affected participants had accessed a health service for their condition, compared with 94.3% of leprosy affected people accessing a service (including SHGs), at least once a week. High levels of stigma were perceived by both groups towards the alternate condition, however, the majority of LF (79%) and leprosy (94.3%) affected participants stated that they would consider attending an integrated SHG.
LF affected participants need to increase their knowledge of self-care and access to health services. Despite stigma being a potential barrier, attitudes towards integration were positive, suggesting that the SHGs may be a good platform for LF affected people to start self-care in this area.
This is not a registered trial.