A note from Seva's Executive Director about COVID-19
Since the beginning of the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS more than 70 million people have been infected and 30 million have died. Today an estimated 38 million people, largely in developing countries and resource-poor settings, still live with HIV infection. The AIDS Eye Initiative reduces blindness and mortality of those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Seva's AIDS Eye Initiative, started in 2007, aims to reduce blindness caused by a common infection among HIV/AIDS patients, CMV retinitis. The AIDS Eye Initiative currently partners with institutions involved in HIV/AIDS treatment in Southeast Asia, East and Southern Africa, and Eastern Europe.
One of the aims of the AIDS Eye Initiative is to develop a model that makes retinal examination by indirect ophthalmoscopy a routine part of care for HIV/AIDS patients. This exam reduces mortality and blindness by providing early diagnosis and improved management of CMV retinitis and disseminated tuberculosis. Using evidence-based methods, this innovation can potentially be scaled up and widely implemented. The initiative's main activities focus on training HIV/AIDS clinicians and building the evidence base for this solution. The training and clinical work has been highly successful, with a recent publication reporting a ten-fold increased detection of CMV retinitis using our model of care. There have been over 30 training workshops, including work in South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda, India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, Russian Federation and Ukraine. In the week immediately before the Covid lockdown of March 2020, we conducted a training workshop in Northern Myanmar, and we soon intend to return to field work, with a training visit to Ukraine scheduled for August 2021.
In parallel with this work, we are also currently developing a simple low-cost retinal camera, designed specifically for the HIV/AIDS clinic, to see if examination of the retina by photograph can support, extend, or even replace examination by the HIV/AIDS clinician.
The AIDS Eye initiative has worked in partnership with national HIV/AIDS treatment programs (in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, India, China, Russian Federation, Ukraine, South Africa, Mozambique) frequently also partnering at the same time with NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Medical Action Myanmar, 100% Life, AIDS Care China, and the Wm Jefferson Clinton Foundation.
Treating HIV-associated cytomegalovirus retinitis with oral valganciclovir and intra- ocular ganciclovir by primary HIV clinicians in southern Myanmar: a retrospective analysis of routinely collected data
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