Friday, 24 May, 2002

This Just In:  AIDS Prevention is Less Costly Than Treatment

I almost drove off the road this evening.  I was listening to the BBC program The World on our local public radio station (KUT, 90.5 FM).  The news announcer was reporting onthis story.  I burst out laughing when the announcer said "Researchers in Africa have discovered that preventive measures are less costly [in reducing the spread of HIV] than treating infected patients."  I actually had to pull over for a minute, I was laughing so hard.  They reported that as news?

Whoever summarized the report for the announcer got the sense of the story all wrong.  What the researchers did is quantify the cost.  It turns out that prevention is 28 times more cost effective than treatment.  As the article puts it:  "In other words, for every life-year purchased with treatment drugs, 28 life-years could have been purchased with prevention."

The more interesting information is in this paragraph:

...because of misconceptions about HAART's efficacy in preventing HIV transmission, both the US and Brazil have seen an upswing in sexual risk behaviors and an increase in HIV incidence after the introduction of HAART.

So, prevention is 28 times as cost-effective as treatment, and more effective in preventing transmission.  It seems to me that we should be concentrating most of our available resources on prevention.