Voices and Images of Tuberculosis in transforming the fight against the disease
“You must have been sick once, and therefore you know that that’s a time of great vulnerability, which we do not identify until it happens… and then we pay attention to the evolution of our ailment. If we could take the time to reflect on this experience, we would identify a few things: how we could have prevented the illness, what we need to do as soon as we are aware of the first symptoms, where to look for help, what to do and what not to do, and how to prevent a family member to be infected with the same disease. That is what we started doing with Voices and Images in Tijuana since October 2007.”
— Liliana Andrade, Coordinator of PCI’s SOLUCION TB in Baja California
Globally, one third of the world’s population is infected with the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Each year, over nine million people develop an active form of the respiratory disease, which is highly contagious and can be fatal. Even though the disease is curable and its spread is preventable, approximately two million people die from TB worldwide annually. TB is also a social illness that involves deep emotional experiences, alienation from family members, isolation and stigmatization.
In Mexico, TB is a public health concern, particularly for the country’s most vulnerable populations. Through our SOLUCION TB program, PCI is working with Mexican public health agencies and other partners to reduce the number of people who get TB or die from this disease. Program interventions have been focused within the 13 priority states across Mexico, which together make up over 65 percent of the TB cases in the country.
PCI-trained health providers are connecting directly with people in their own homes and communities to ensure early diagnoses of TB, and to encourage those with the disease to stay committed to their treatment. In addition, health workers provide a wide array of support and information to those affected and their families. PCI has built a reputation for its unique approach to TB, which involves strengthening the overall system for TB prevention and control at local, state, and national levels, and promoting a person-centered model.
As a result, TB case detection and treatment success has improved in Mexico through increased social mobilization and community participation in TB activities. Since 2005, PCI’s nationwide tuberculosis prevention and control program has reached over 8.2 million individuals with prevention messages and has resulted in an average cure rate of 90.7% in participating municipalities, compared to a national rate of 84.1%.
One component of PCI’s SOLUCION TB program is the Voices and Images project, in which people with TB are provided with disposable cameras to take pictures and share stories that describe the ways their lives are transformed by the disease. Galleries of pictures are then displayed for community members and decision-makers to learn about the importance of TB care within their communities.
The Voices and Images project is a compassionate and sensitive way to advocate for TB, disseminate information about the disease, and mobilize the community to get involved and STOP TB. It also fosters a sense of self-worth and helps mitigate stigma through photos that are “worth 1,000 words.”