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Project July 3, 2016

Turning a Blind Eye on India's HIV Epidemic


Doctors without Borders site in Churachandpur
Pictured here is the pharmacy at the Doctors without Borders site in Churachandpur Manipur, where Valganciclovir, otherwise commonly known as Valgan, the medication to treat CMV retinitis (a virus which causes blindness in HIV patients), is accessible for patients, but still remains out of reach for many in India. Image by Aditi Kantipuly. India, 2016.

Myna is left blind by cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMVR), a common, treatable, opportunistic infection in patients with HIV. She lives in India, where more than half of HIV patients lack access to proper care. She is another person needlessly blind in an increasing group of HIV patients affected by CMVR, also known as the "neglected disease" of the AIDS pandemic.

During the last decade, there has been no apparent decrease in CMVR in Southeast Asia, as distinct from high-income countries, where CMVR rapidly disappeared after introduction of antiretroviral therapy. With early testing and early treatment, a patient with HIV never gets to the advanced stage of immune deficiency and vulnerability to CMVR.

Investigating CMVR in India is crucial not only to prevent tragedy of blindness and mortality, but to monitor our success or failure in the AIDS epidemic.

The Pulitzer Center's reporting on HIV/AIDS is supported by the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund (M·A·F) and other generous donors.


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