Objective: To determine the prevalence of trachoma and blindness in the Aboriginal population in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Yalata lands of South Australia.
Design and setting: A population-based prevalence survey undertaken in conjunction with routine South Australian Aboriginal Trachoma and Eye Health Program trips during 1989 and 1990.
Results: A group of 1514 individuals aged 0-90 years, or approximately 58% of the estimated Aboriginal population in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Yalata lands, was examined. Active inflammatory trachoma was found in 17.6% of the group (266 individuals), cicatricial trachoma in 25.2% (382) and binocular blindness (Australian definition) in 1.5% (22). The major causes of monocular and binocular blindness were trachoma, cataracts and trauma. Two per cent of women (17 of 849) were blind, compared with 0.8% (5 of 665) of men (odds ratio, 3.22; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-10.43).
Conclusions: Although trachoma is still endemic in the "traditional" Aboriginal population of SA, its prevalence and severity appear to be less than previously recorded. However, the prevalence of blindness is comparable with that found in developing countries and the causes are still largely preventable. Further effort is required to reduce trachoma and preventable or treatable blindness in these communities.