New HIV prevention strategy to benefit sufferers by cutting costs

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Washington, July 8 (ANI): Increasing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) treatment for people with HIV/AIDS will provide significant cost savings over a relatively short period of time, according to a formal economic analysis.

Led by researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) at Providence Health Care and the University of British Columbia (UBC), the analysis of HAART coverage in British Columbia, is the first comprehensive economic evaluation of the net benefit of HAART in the province.

HAART lowers viral load, stopping HIV from progressing to AIDS in individuals and helping to prevent HIV transmission.

The study's key finding shows that while expanding HAART use is cost-effective for individual patients, the benefits become exponentially greater when HAART's ability to prevent HIV transmission is considered.

The economic analysis demonstrated that increasing HAART treatment coverage from the current estimated 50 per cent to 75 per cent of all clinically eligible British Columbians (HIV-infected individuals with CD4 cell counts below 350 cells/ ul) would deliver a net benefit of 900 million US Dollars over 30 years.

"The study findings make the point that expansion of HAART is not just a medical or ethical imperative, it is a very smart financial investment in terms of its potential to improve public health," said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC-CfE, president of the IAS, and one of the authors of the study.

"HIV continues to be a global health concern and the lifetime costs of treating individuals with HIV are substantial. Therefore, HAART's potential to prevent new HIV infections is an important element of the overall strategy to minimize the economic burden on the health care system of treating HIV," he added.

Within B.C., the sub-populations most affected by HIV are hard-to-reach, marginalized groups such as sex trade workers, injection drug users and men who have sex with men.

Prevention of new infections among these HIV-vulnerable groups must be a priority in order to meaningfully curb the growth of the epidemic.

In this context, the study findings lend further credence to the BC-CfE-pioneered Seek and Treat strategy.

The Seek and Treat program will improve access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care among hard-to-reach populations.

The study is published in AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society (IAS). (ANI)

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