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16 Deeply Haunting Photos That Capture Tijuana's AIDS Epidemic

"Researchers speak about the 'marginalized' populations who are most vulnerable to the virus. I think marginalized is code for hated and feared."

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For two years, Photographer Malcolm Linton and writer Jon Cohen documented the stories of people who are at risk or living with HIV/AIDS in Mexico's border city of Tijuana.

Their recent book Tomorrow Is a Long Time — Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic compiles the stories of two dozen individuals and highlights the reality of the war to end AIDS in Mexico.

Jon Cohen spoke with BuzzFeed about the project:

"We decided to focus much of our attention on the Tijuana River Canal, which was home to about 1,000 people, mostly deportees from the U.S. who were at extremely high risk for HIV infection because of sharing needles to shoot heroin and selling sex."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Police and medical examiners check the body of a man who died of an apparent drug overdose in a section of the Tijuana River Canal known as "El Bordo". The canal is home to hundreds of people who inject drugs and is has a relatively high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Outside her makeshift shelter, Reyna Ortiz tries to enjoy a normal evening with a book and a cigarette where she lives in the Tijuana River Canal. The Tijuana police patrol the Mexican side of El Bordo and make intermittent raids, usually at night, on the people living there.

He goes on, "We also spent a lot of time in the red light district with straight, gay, and transgender sex workers. And Tijuana has an AIDS hospice/drug rehab center that we visited frequently, too."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Christian missionaries on a visit to the Tijuana River Canal bless Salome Quintero, a 43-year-old heroin user, who lives in a manhole with four others. Salome became addicted in his twenties and had been to rehab six times. Almost every day he injects with a syringe already used by someone else, a practice that greatly increases the risk of infection with HIV.

"In all, we interviewed and photographed about 100 people who either were living with HIV or at high risk, and the book tells the stories of two dozen of them over time."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Dr. Patricia Gonzalez (seated, right) sees patients at a Friday first-aid clinic that she began in July 2014 in the Tijuana River Canal. Gonzalez, local director of El Cuete cross-border research project into HIV/AIDS and injecting drug use, was frustrated that so many of the participants came to her downtown office with untreated abscesses.

"Some HIV-infected people started antiretroviral treatment and bounced back from their deathbeds. Some untreated people died."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Victor Mora watches Pedro Robles, age 51, in the next bed one day before Pedro died of AIDS at Albergue Las Memorias, a hospice/drug rehab center on the edge of Tijuana for people with HIV.

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Victor Mora watches TV across the wrapped body of Pedro Robles after his death from AIDS several hours earlier. Pedro arrived at Las Memorias six days before but because of bureaucratic delays in Tijuana's medical system he received no HIV medication and died without having seen a doctor.

"Some uninfected people we followed became infected, while others, despite sharing needles and selling sex, did not."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Susi Leal, an outreach worker for El Cuete, laughs with friends in the Tijuana River Canal. Susi, who is HIV-positive herself, injected heroin for decades and lived in the canal for eight years. The scarring on her arm bears witness to her past heroin use.

"A few people entered rehab for their drug addictions, and a few ended up in prison for allegedly selling drugs."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Martha Patricia Ruiz, age 53, was one of many women who sells sex in Tijuana's Zona Norte red light district. Her spot is across the street from the office of the El Cuete research project, which investigates the link between injecting drug use and HIV. In 2012 she had an HIV test at El Cuete that came out positive.

"Tijuana shows the chasm that separates the dream of ending AIDS from the reality, and this holds true for many locales around the world."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Martha Patricia Ruiz sits on an examining table at the nearby Prevencasa free clinic, jointly run by U.S. and Mexican medical students. She had chills, lower back pain, and blood-tinged sputum. She said her landlord had kicked her out and that she had been living on the street for two days. The doctors suspected that she had tuberculosis.

"In the world of HIV/AIDS, researchers speak about the 'marginalized' populations who are most vulnerable to the virus. I think marginalized is code for hated and feared."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Sex worker Oscar Villareal, age 28, waits for clients in a park in Tijuana. Gay men and transgender women have the highest HIV infection rates of any group in Tijuana. Selling sex further increases risk, as does smoking crystal meth, a strong aphrodisiac used by many of the city's sex workers including Oscar.

"We strived to make readers care about the people we featured, to see them as humans instead of wild animals...

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Oscar Villareal gets an admiring glance at a bar in Tijuana's red light district. Oscar calls himself Beto by day and would look for clients as a gay man in a local park, but at night he becomes Alessandra, working the clubs and the streets of the red light district.

...to understand that they were capable of change and that it was important to communities to help them stay healthy."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Jessy Lopez, an HIV-positive transgender woman, admires a watch that she said a client had given her in payment for sex.

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Jessy Lopez sweats after smoking crystal meth in friend's room at a boardinghouse in Tijuana's red light district. Jessy said crystal, which was the drug of choice for many of the city's sex workers, made her feel "like the hottest girl in town."

"We became close to many people who wanted us to tell their stories, openly sharing intimate details about their sex lives, struggles with drugs and alcohol, run-ins with the law, estrangement from family, and complicated health histories."

Malcolm Linton / Via "Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Tijuana's Unchecked HIV/AIDS Epidemic"

Transgender sex worker Fernanda Sanchez smokes crystal meth in her room in a boardinghouse in the red light district of Tijuana. Fernanda bought her crystal from around the corner in $3 packets that each held enough to get high with a friend. In November 2014 she tested positive for HIV. She said she was not much worried much about living with the virus and she did not immediately seek treatment.

"By making them visible, I hope the book creates more compassion toward their plight and convinces the public and policy makers that helping them is the key to ending Tijuana’s HIV/AIDS epidemic."

To learn more about Tijuana's AIDS epidemic and to pick up your copy of Tomorrow Is A Long Time visit tomorrowisalongtime.com.