Health Challenge: Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that is spread by contact with an infected person's hands or clothing. It is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness and is one of the oldest diseases known to man.
Today, about 41 million people, mostly women and children, have active trachoma infection and need treatment. An estimated 8.2 million people have an advanced stage of the disease, called trichiasis, in which the eyelashes turn inward and scrape the cornea. They face the risk of visual impairment or blindness unless treated with antibiotics and a simple surgical procedure.
Trachoma is believed to be endemic in 57 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia. The poorest of the poor suffer most from trachoma, particularly those with limited access to water and sanitation. Globally, 1.2 billion people live in trachoma-endemic areas. Because trachoma is transmitted through close personal contact, it tends to occur in clusters-often infecting entire families and communities.
However, trachoma is treatable and preventable with full implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended SAFE strategy for trachoma control (Surgery; Antibiotics-using donated Zithromax®; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvement) in affected communities.
Program Goal: Pfizer is working to help end the suffering and the cycle of poverty caused by this debilitating disease by partnering with the WHO's Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET2020) and the International Trachoma Initiative.
Pfizer's Commitment: To provide the Zithromax® needed in the effort to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020 and help preserve and restore the health and well-being of affected families worldwide. To date, Pfizer has donated more than 225 million Zithromax® treatments in 19 countries with plans to soon be active in many more.
In 1998, Pfizer and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation co-established the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to the elimination of blinding trachoma. ITI, housed at The Task Force for Global Health, manages Pfizer's global donation of the antibiotic Zithromax® for the elimination of blinding trachoma and collaborates with governmental and nongovernmental agencies at the local, national and international levels to implement the SAFE strategy. Pfizer also funds a significant portion of ITI's activities worldwide.
Successes (as of September 2011):
- To date, the program has donated more than 225 million Zithromax® treatments with an estimated total value of $5 billion USD to people in 19 countries and supported the performance of surgeries to treat advanced cases of trachoma.
- With the support of Pfizer, ITI, and other partners, Morocco became the first country to reach its trachoma elimination goals and awaits WHO certification that blinding trachoma has been eliminated as a public health problem.
- Three countries in which ITI works are on track to eliminate blinding trachoma: The Gambia, Ghana and Vietnam.
Partners: Program partners include governments, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, U.N. agencies, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Carter Center, CBM, Helen Keller International, Lions Clubs International, Sight Savers International, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, World Health Organization, and others. Implementation of the full SAFE strategy relies on multiple partnerships in various sectors such as water, sanitation and education that are essential to achieving our shared goal of elimination.
Visit www.trachoma.org  and www.pfizerglobalhealth.com  to learn more about the ITI and to download brochures, annual reports, newsletters, photos and stories about people making a difference in the field.