Fronteras Desk (San Diego, CA) (10.29.12)
For years, Tijuana, Mexico, has grappled with a high TB rate; there are about 800 new cases of TB every year in Tijuana, more than in any other part of Mexico. Dr. Concepcion Corona Rubio of the Centro de Salud TB clinic explains that a number of factors predispose Tijuana’s population to TB—a large number of immigrants and a great percentage of people who use drugs—which drives up the number of people who test positive for TB infection.
Since 2004, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization called Project Concern International has boosted Tijuana’s fight against TB by helping health officials fight the disease throughout Mexico. However, the program’s funding runs out at the end of December. Blanca Lomeli, director of the program Solucion TB, funded by Project Concern, has helped change the way public health officials look at the disease. Lomeli explains that instead of focusing on the number of people infected, Solucion TB identifies why people are getting infected, getting the disease, and then abandoning treatment. Solucion TB designs programs that account for all of these factors and hires public health workers who visit patients’ homes to ensure they are taking their medicine. Solucion TB has encouraged widespread TB testing for earlier diagnoses of the disease. Dr. Paris Cerecer Callu explains that Solucion TB has aided the health ministry in integrating its TB program with efforts to control HIV and diabetes, since persons with these diseases are at higher risk of getting TB.
But funding for Project Concern’s Solucion TB, which comes from the US Agency for International Development, ends in December. Program director Blanca Lomeli hopes public health officials in Tijuana will keep up the fight against TB, explaining that they have learned that when investing resources in the disease stops, the problem gets worse.