In 2013, the Elton John AIDS Foundation awarded grant funds to help prevent HIV positive patients in Myanmar losing their sight. There are around 230,000 people living with HIV in the country and access to health services is virtually non-existent.
What is CMV retinitis?
Cytomegalovirus retinitis, also known as CMV retinitis, is an infection of the eye which – if untreated - will lead to blindness. In most cases CMV Retinitis can be fought off by the body’s immune system. However, if a person is HIV positive, their immune system is weakened and the body cannot fight the infection.
11 local clinicians have been trained in the Yangon province to screen HIV positive patients for CMV Retinitis. If a diagnosis is made in the early stages of infection, blindness can be prevented through a straightforward course of treatment over a number of weeks.
700 people treated
To date, over 700 people have been screened for CMV Retinitis and those diagnosed with the virus have been treated through this quick and inexpensive process. Thida Aung, 35, a patient at one of the local clinics, tells us about her life changing treatment.
“Life was difficult before arriving the clinic. I was very sick and had blurred vision in both eyes. Everyday tasks like walking, eating and going to the toilet were hard, but luckily my doctor found out that I had an infection in both eyes early on. Now after receiving treatment, I am feeling much better. I can work to support my parents and my child. I am so Happy. I have a future. I want to thank my doctor, the staff at the clinic and all the donors for their support.”
In a country where such services are scarce, especially for those living with HIV, a simple intervention can make a huge difference to a person’s health and wellbeing.