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Red Cross Promotes Prevention, Control of TB Along U.S. - Mexican Border

WASHINGTON, While the global health community and residents of several countries are concerned about news reports of the estimated 100 people who may have contracted tuberculosis (TB) from an infected airplane passenger recently, the American Red Cross has been working for two years along the U.S. and Mexican border to prevent the spread of this particularly infectious disease.

At a conference held in Matamoros, Mexico in May, senior representatives from both the American and the Mexican Red Cross came together to discuss greater cooperation in local border communities, as well as at the international level, in health promotion.

Lance Leverenz, the regional director for the Americas for the American Red Cross, emphasizes that the success of such an initiative is contingent upon his organization's role as an international actor.

"Such challenges require solutions that transcend national boundaries," said Leverenz. "The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is uniquely positioned to confront these issues."

In Matamoros -- across the border from Brownsville, Texas -- vital services provided by the Red Cross reach deep into the community to encourage care-seeking behaviors, reduce the stigma associated with TB, and most importantly, get people into treatment and see treatment through to a successful cure.

Since its inception in June 2005, the TB treatment program has increased the number of patients who complete the six-month treatment regimen from 78 percent to 86 percent, a treatment rate higher than the United Nations World Health Organization target. The Red Cross utilizes health care systems that are flexible in meeting the needs of each community.

Although the two-year pilot project focuses on reducing the incidence of TB, similar strategies can be applied to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, preparing disaster response programs, and promoting humanitarian values.

"The Red Cross works for healthy borders which benefits both countries in preventing and controlling the spread of TB," said Leverenz.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies in the US and overseas. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest U.S. supplier of blood and blood products.

The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which has 97 million volunteers worldwide. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.


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