Tijuana struggles to reduce high TB rate

While Tijuana, Mexico, struggles with high rate of tuberculosis, efforts to stop the disease could be undone if a San Diego-based non-profit loses its funding in December.

The city has the highest TB rate in the country, with approximately 800 new patients each year. Poverty is widespread in the city and public health resources are limited, Fronteras reports.

"Tuberculosis still accounts for several million cases per year (worldwide), approximately 9 million cases per year," Jacob Kumaresan, the executive director of World Health Organization's New York office, said, according to Fronteras. "And of this, many of them die, and most of them are in the developing world, in Asia and Africa. So it is still a significant problem worldwide."

Since 2004, Project Concern International and its Solucion TB program has helped Tijuana in its battle against TB. The program attempts to change the way public health officials view the disease.

"So instead of focusing on X amount of people infected, just looking at the statistics," Blanca Lomeli, the director of Solucion TB, said, according to Fronteras. "Instead of looking at that, you look at the individuals, and try to identify why people are getting infected, why people are getting the disease, why they're abandoning treatment, etc., and you design the program around that."

Solucion TB helped to fund the hiring of more public health workers to ensure that patients are taking their medicine and encourage more widespread testing of TB. The funding for the program, which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development, runs out in December.

Election season will bring a new president and health secretary to Mexico. It is not yet known if the new administration will maintain the city's campaign against the deadly disease, Fronteras reports.

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