On October 13 the TT Blind Welfare Association, along with the rest of the world, celebrated World Sight Day 2022.
To mark the occasion, the association hosted a Walk for Sight around the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, on October 16.
This year’s theme, Love Your Eyes, brought global attention to the prevention of avoidable blindness.
The association believes every effort should be made to ensure the people of TT do not go needlessly blind. Avoidable blindness negatively affects the socioeconomic fabric of our country and dealing with its consequences, in addition to being devastating, is just not sustainable.
According to the 2013-2014 National Eye Survey, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy (DR) are the major causes of preventable blindness in this country.
However, many clients complain that glaucoma medications are sometimes unavailable at hospital pharmacies, owing to drug shortages and/or stock-outs. They therefore sometimes have no choice but to buy the medication, which can be quite expensive. Owing to its high cost, many people may not be able to buy all the medication they need, putting them at increased risk of blindness from glaucoma.
With respect to DR, treatment often involves administering anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) agents via injections into the eye.
Clients have told the association anti-VEGF drugs are not available for ophthalmic use in the public health institutions and they can only access the treatment privately. These sight-saving treatments are supplied by pharmaceutical distributors at exorbitant prices and are administered by private medical practitioners. As a result, many people who cannot afford the treatment go blind from DR.
The TTBWA recently attended a meeting with the Minister of Health and others at the ministry and asked them to consider the following solutions:
1) Add prostaglandin analogue eye drops to the list of medications available through the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP), as these drops are the first line of treatment for glaucoma. The glaucoma drugs currently available on CDAP are not considered first-line.
2) Make Anti-VEGF drugs immediately available for use in the public hospital eye service.
The association wishes to thank all our sponsors, volunteers and staff for making the Walk for Sight 2022 a success. We will continue to work with our line ministry, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and all other stakeholders towards blindness prevention.
To those whose sight cannot be restored, the staff at the TT Blind Welfare Association is willing and able to assist you in adjusting to blindness so that you may have a fulfilling life and continue to contribute to national development.
The association calls on all individuals and groups to partner with us to build an inclusive society through equity and diversity for those who are blind, visually impaired and low-vision.