United States, Mexican Health Departments to Coordinate Efforts Along Border, Among Migrant Workers
American and Mexican health officials meeting this week in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, agreed to a 10-year plan for improving health care and disease prevention, including HIV, for the 11.5 million people living along the border between the two nations, the Los Angeles Times reports. A study released on Monday by the year-old Border Health Commission found that the "high level of border crossings between the United States and Mexico complicates the development of strategies to address the spread of diseases," such as HIV and tuberculosis. The study found that HIV/AIDS and TB rates in the border region are higher than the national rates in either country. A workshop of 100 TB experts met during the meetings to develop "cross-border approaches" for tracking and caring for TB patients. Disruption of TB treatment occurs frequently when infected migrant workers cross illegally into the United States, leading to drug resistance, the Times reports. Workshop participants hope to develop a card that would allow TB carriers to continue treatment on both sides of the border without fear of being turned over to immigration officials. The Mexican health agency is also staging National Public Health Weeks three times a year to vaccinate people against some diseases and to educate migrant workers about HIV prevention. According to Mexican Health Secretary Julio Frenk, officials did not "clearly understand the differences between treating stable and migrant populations" in the past, and the new approach "acknowledges that migrants carry health problems with them as they leave home -- and bring back ailments such as AIDS when they return from the United States." The efforts, which require "a high level of coordination with U.S. authorities," take place primarily in August and September, when workers leave home for the harvest, and in the spring when they return home (Smith, Los Angeles Times, 10/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.