They’ll inject you and you’ll die’: from medication non-compliance to acceptance in Guinea’s Ebola treatment units

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Anthropology & Medicine

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During the 2013–2016 West African Ebola epidemic, medical emergency response teams negotiated a context marked by public hysteria and fear to prevent the spread of the virus and treat those already infected. However, the presence and work of Ebola response teams added to suspicions provoked by the rapid increase in numbers of dead and dying and by locally unintelligible emergency measures. Based on data collected from 40 young adult ‘survivors’ between 16 and 29 years of age who were hospitalized for Ebola during the epidemic, this article examines how pharmaceutical treatments were accepted (or not) by patients in ebola treatment units (ETU). Three key questions guide this analysis: (1) Did hospitalized individuals adhere with or refuse treatments offered at ETUs? (2) Did their attitudes change over the course of their hospitalization? (3) Which factors influenced refusal of treatment or compliance? To the authors’ knowledge, no previous studies have explored the resistance of hospitalized patients to treatment in Ebola centers. This article, in addition to exploring patients’ practices and related perceptions of treatment with evolving meanings in this outbreak crisis situation, also presents practical recommendations for future Ebola interventions as well as theoretical knowledge about the circulation and transformation of socially constructed representations of medications.