Tuberculosis Stigma and Racism, Colonialism, and Migration: A Rapid Qualitative Review


Project Status:
Project Line:
Health Technology Review
Project Sub Line:
Summary with Critical Appraisal
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  1. How does stigma intersect with colonialism, racism, and migration in the context of tuberculosis policy and care?
  2. What opportunities are there to address these intersections in the design, delivery, and offering of care for tuberculosis?

Key Message

Current experiences of tuberculosis policy and care among Indigenous people are interpreted and understood in light of the past colonial violence and cultural genocide. The expressed reluctance to seek health care was often grounded in experiences of colonial violence and racism, pointing toward colonial and racist practice in health care as an important driver of tuberculosis stigma. The ongoing presence of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care systems underscores the ways that these worries are not confined to historical events but manifest in the interactions across individuals and systems today. For tuberculosis stigma in the context of migration, tuberculosis policies and programs targeting migrant persons or racialized groups were seen as fuelling discriminatory and exclusionary views and practices toward these groups in the wider society and exacerbating tuberculosis stigma. Migrant detention centres were 1 of the sites where tuberculosis stigma was amplified through isolation when diagnosed. Further, the twining of immigration policy with tuberculosis policy led to worries among migrant persons about one’s tuberculosis status and its impact on one’s immigration status, and subsequently a reluctance to access health care. These findings ask us to consider the ways that tuberculosis policy, in concert with immigration policy, can generate tuberculosis stigma. Tuberculosis stigma differs across contexts. It can be both a determinant of, and determined by, other forms of discrimination. Moreover, it requires close attention to the specific setting where tuberculosis stigma is sought to be addressed. The implications of this for tuberculosis policy and care are that a universal, one-size approach to addressing tuberculosis stigma is unlikely to be successful. Rather, program-specific approaches are likely needed that engage with questions as to how different forms of tuberculosis stigma play out in the context of care. Cutting across this review findings were widespread experiences of racism in health care. These findings suggest that, in as much as tuberculosis stigma is a barrier to the uptake of tuberculosis screening and treatment, racism against Indigenous people and racialized migrants remains endemic in Canada’s health care system and may in some cases overshadow the role or experience of tuberculosis stigma. In light of these findings, and again, depending on the particular setting, engaging with anti-racist efforts and challenging white supremacy remain necessary and urgent.