HIV prevention could save $250,000

A new analysis has unveiled that prevention of HIV infection in one person dwelling in the U.S. can save more than $250,000 over his or her remaining life. Researchers estimated the lifespan and medical costs from the age of 35 years onwards and found that about $229,800 to $338,400 can be saved by avoiding HIV infection which causes AIDS and the amount depends on the care received by the person. Bruce Schackman, the study leader, opines that the savings may be greater if the non-medical costs are also taken into consideration, including the reduced productivity of the person due to the infection.

Schackman, who is a professor of psychiatry and public health at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City said “There are a lot of cost savings by avoiding HIV infections that weren’t included.” He also added that the savings estimates could help the researchers and policymakers to judge the cost-effectiveness of HIV prevention methods.  The result of the study has been published in the journal Medical Care and was presented Tuesday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

The data on healthcare and prescription drug costs was used by the researchers for determining how much the average person having HIV infection will spend on medical care if he or she gets the infection at the age of 35. In 2006 the estimate was $361,400. The study authors also estimated the lifespan of a 35-year old person with HIV infection and of the person who is not infected. In 2012, the life expectancy of a 35-year old infected person was found to be 29.5 years whereas for an uninfected person of the same age, life expectancy was an additional 38 years.

It was found that if an infected person gets immediate and consistent treatment with a combination of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART, after getting infected, he spends about $435,200 on medical care over his remaining life. However, many people do not get immediate or consistent treatment and in such cases the average HIV-infected person would spend about $326,500 on care over their remaining years. A comparison was then made between these costs and the average healthcare cost over the remaining lifetime of a 35-year-old not infected with HIV, which was found to be $96,700.

According to Schackman it is essential to make a comparison between the estimated savings and the costs of HIV prevention methods like condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily dose of antiviral drugs. HIV risk can be reduced by 92 percent by PrEP as per the reports of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recently a pill, Gilead’s Truvada, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for PrEP. Other prevention costs must also be taken into consideration like regular blood tests. Researchers have started to estimate the cost effectiveness of PrEP, which costs between $8,000 and $14,000 per year. Schackman added “I think that this certainly looks favorable for high-risk groups. So for people who are really at high risk of being infected, the benefits are going to be greater.”

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