The Economic Burden of HIV in the United States in the Era of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy: Evidence of Continuing Racial and Ethnic Differences

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Abstract

Background:

Assessing the economic burden of HIV/AIDS can help to quantify the effect of the epidemic on a population and assist policy makers in allocating public health resources.

Objective:

To estimate the economic burden of HIV/AIDS in the United States and provide race/ethnicity-specific estimates.

Methods:

We conducted an incidence-based cost-of-illness analysis to estimate the lifetime cost of HIV/AIDS resulting from new infections diagnosed in 2002. Data from the HIV/AIDS Reporting System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used to determine stage of disease at diagnosis and proportion of cases by race/ethnicity. Lifetime direct medical costs and mortality-related productivity losses were estimated using data on cost, life expectancy, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) use from the literature.

Results:

The cost of new HIV infections in the United States in 2002 is estimated at $36.4 billion, including $6.7 billion in direct medical costs and $29.7 billion in productivity losses. Direct medical costs per case were highest for whites ($180,900) and lowest for blacks ($160,400). Productivity losses per case were lowest for whites ($661,100) and highest for Hispanics ($838,000). In a sensitivity analysis, universal use of ART and more effective ART regimens decreased the overall cost of illness.

Conclusion:

Direct medical costs and productivity losses of HIV/AIDS resulting from infections diagnosed in 2002 are substantial. Productivity losses far surpass direct medical costs and are disproportionately borne by minority races/ethnicities. Our analysis underscores economic benefits of more effective ART regimens and universal access to ART.

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