On May 6, AA&D Executive Director Tom Nicholson and Global Program Officer Amanda Brumwell visited the city of Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico, as AA&D’s ongoing Secretariat work for the Zero TB Initiative.
Nicholson and Brumwell visited Mexicali, a city of about a million people and located on the US-Mexico border, to meet with TB control officials, state epidemiologists, and nurses and doctors. The goal of their visit was to introduce the Zero TB Initiative’s comprehensive approach for TB elimination to stakeholders across the city and to understand the existing health infrastructure and TB services. They also met with Imperial County health officials in El Centro, California, which is directly across the US-Mexico border from Mexicali. Mexicali and Imperial County are already collaborating on binational initiatives to improve public health between outcomes between their two communities.
TB is an airborne, infectious disease that is responsible for 1.6 million deaths each year, and it remains an urgent public health threat globally despite being curable and preventable. Mexicali has one of the highest incidence rates of TB in Mexico with an estimated 57.8 per 100,000 people with the disease in 2018, while an unknown number of people are infected with TB but are not yet symptomatic. Many of these people have co-morbid diseases including HIV and diabetes, adding further complexity to the long and sometimes difficult treatment. Further, Mexicali is one of the critical cities for border-crossings between Mexico and the US. Many people in Mexicali travel daily to the US for work in the large industrial farms in Imperial County, presenting a uniquely challenging context for public health and TB control.
The goal of this visit was to identify gaps and opportunities for strengthening TB control activities with a comprehensive strategy. Officials expressed support for Zero TB in Mexicali and are moving forward with plans to launch a Zero TB Initiative. AA&D’s visit to Mexicali occurred ahead of a Zero TB Initiative training meeting in June, which will provide technical training for core components of Zero TB Initiative framework for searching actively for TB, treating appropriately all forms of the disease, and preventing infection and disease progression. AA&D’s visit was an important step towards developing solutions for eliminating TB in Mexicali, and lessons from this work will likely be applicable to other parts of Mexico with similar epidemiological burdens.