Background In Sierra Leone, over 4000 individuals survived Ebola since the outbreak began in 2014. Because Ebola survivorship was largely unprecedented prior to this outbreak, little is known about survivor experiences during and post illness.
Methods To assess survivors' experiences and attitudes related to Ebola, 28 in-depth interviews and short quantitative surveys with survivors from all four geographic regions of Sierra Leone were conducted in May 2015.
Results Survivor experiences, emotions and attitudes changed over time as they moved from disease onset to treatment, discharge and life post-discharge. Survivors mentioned experiencing acute fear and depression when they fell ill. Only half reported positive experiences in holding centres but nearly all were positive about their treatment centre experiences. Survivor euphoria on discharge was followed by concerns about their financial situation and future. While all reported supportive attitudes from family members, about a third described discrimination and stigma from their communities. Over a third became unemployed, especially those previously engaged in petty trade. Survivor knowledge about sexual transmission risk reflected counselling messages. Many expressed altruistic motivations for abstinence or condom use. In addition, survivors were strongly motivated to help end Ebola and to improve the healthcare system. Key recommendations from survivors included improved counselling in holding centres and long-term government support for survivors, including opportunities for participation in Ebola response efforts.
Conclusions Survivors face myriad economic, social and health challenges. Addressing survivor concerns, including the discrimination they face, could facilitate their reintegration into communities and their contributions to future Ebola responses.
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