Indian Journal of Ophthalmology (Jan 2008)

Medical management of human immunodeficiency virus infection

  • Kempen John

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 56, no. 5
pp. 385 – 390


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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic has pervasive effects on culture, economics, policy, and human development. All organs can be affected by complications of HIV/AIDS, including the eye. When sufficient resources are available and widespread antiretroviral resistance does not exist, the four available classes of antiretroviral agents - nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, and fusion inhibitors - can be combined to provide highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). For many (not all) patients, HAART converts an inexorably fatal disease into a chronic disease with a fairly good prognosis. Use of HAART often induces partial immune recovery, which has predominantly beneficial effects on ocular complications of AIDS. However, HAART-induced immune recovery sometimes results in immune recovery inflammatory syndromes, such as immune recovery uveitis. Use of HAART is the single most useful intervention for most patients with ocular complications of AIDS. However, specific ocular therapy is also critical to avoid blindness in the early months before immune recovery can occur, or if HAART is unavailable. Increasing availability of HAART worldwide shows great promise to alleviate one of the world′s greatest plagues. However, predictable secular trends in the AIDS epidemic make it likely that the number of cases of ocular complications of AIDS will increase substantially before they decrease. Ophthalmologists worldwide should be familiar with the diagnosis and management of cytomegalovirus retinitis - the most common ocular complication of AIDS - and should establish partnerships with physicians who are able to provide HAART. Research is needed to determine the optimal approach for managing cytomegalovirus retinitis in resource-constrained settings.