Former US President Jimmy Carter joined Pfizer on Nov. 5, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), an independent, not-for-profit program dedicated to the elimination of blinding trachoma as a public health concern. Through the ITI, Pfizer has donated more than 340 million doses of the antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin) to help wipe out blinding trachoma by the year 2020.
On November 10, the 100 millionth Carter Center-assisted dose of Zithromax was distributed in Amhara Region, Ethiopia, during a celebration with the Ethiopian government, Pfizer, ITI, the Lions Clubs International Foundation and Lions of Ethiopia, and other partners. The Amhara Region is thought to be the most trachoma-endemic area in the world, and together the partners are actively working to demonstrate that blinding trachoma can be eliminated from a highly endemic country.
The Carter Center, together with the Ministry of Health and other partners in Ethiopia, has helped demonstrate that community-directed infrastructures for preventing trachoma can mobilize millions of people to accept treatment and adopt behavior changes, even in remote areas where there is limited access to basic medical care, water, and sanitation.
The international trachoma campaign uses the SAFE strategy, approved by the WHO, to prevent and treat trachoma. SAFE stands for: Surgery to prevent blindness; Antibiotics to treat active infections; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvements, such as latrines to reduce the breeding grounds of flies that help spread the disease.
Using these interventions, Ghana, Morocco, Oman, Vietnam, Iran, and Gambia have all achieved success against the infection. Mali, Niger, and Sudan also are on track to make significant inroads in their fight against blinding trachoma by 2015.