Texas Conference Examines the Link Between Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS
A conference held this week in Texas to coincide with World TB Day highlighted the connection between tuberculosis and HIV in the state and around the world and called for increased efforts to stem the spread of the diseases, the Austin American-Statesman reports (Roser, Austin American-Statesman, 3/19). The conference, titled "When TB & HIV Collide: Texas & Beyond," was one of a Global Health Council-sponsored series of Local-Global Health Forums, which are designed to bring together community-based organizations, students, public health professionals, members of the faith community and others interested in local and global health issues (Global Health Council release, 3/18). The growing number of TB patients who are infected with multi-drug-resistant strains or who are co-infected with HIV is making treatment more difficult, more expensive and lengthier, experts at the conference said (Global Health Council release, 3/18).
Immigration Part of Problem
In Texas, one of the major reasons for the spread of TB in the late 1980s and early 1990s was immigrants already infected with TB coming into the state from Mexico and other countries such as India, Vietnam and Honduras, according to Texas Health Commissioner Dr. Eduardo Sanchez. Charles Wallace, director of the Texas Department of Health Tuberculosis Elimination Division, said that the problem of TB among immigrants is growing; in 2001, 43% of the state's TB cases were among people who were born outside of the United States, compared with 28% in 1995. Homelessness, complacency and the spread of drug-resistant strains of TB are also contributing to the disease's resurgence in the United States and other industrialized nations (Austin American-Statesman, 3/19). "[O]nly a unified health sector strategy can control TB/HIV," as similar factors contribute to the spread of both diseases, Sophia Mukasa Monico, senior AIDS officer of the Global Health Council, said. "The face of tuberculosis in Texas is global, binational, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-drug resistant. We have a young, mobile population being diagnosed with TB in Texas," Wallace said (Global Health Council release, 3/18). Sanchez later this month will announce the state's participation in a two-year pilot program that will allow Mexican residents to be treated for TB at U.S. health clinics in an effort to prevent cross-border transmission of the disease, according to the American-Statesman (Austin American-Statesman, 3/19). March 24 is World TB Day, which can "play a crucial role in increasing the awareness of various stakeholders on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of TB, and the importance of effective TB control," according to the World Health Organization (WHO Web site, 3/19).