Early HIV Treatment Is Cost-Effective Over Long Term, Study Says

“Treating people with HIV soon after they become infected is cost-effective over the long term, according to a study out Wednesday [in the New England Journal of Medicine] that focused on South Africa and India,” Agence France-Presse reports. “By projecting the treatment costs over time and accounting for the effects of better health and fewer infections, researchers found long-term economic benefits in both countries,” the news agency writes (10/30). “While most of the benefits of early treatment were seen in the HIV-infected patients — fewer illnesses and deaths — there were also added health care and economic cost savings from reducing HIV transmission, according to the study,” HealthDay News reports (Preidt, 10/30).

Study co-author Rochelle Walensky of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) said, “In short, early [antiretroviral therapy (ART)] is a ‘triple winner’: HIV-infected patients live healthier lives, their partners are protected from HIV, and the investment is superb. … This study provides a critical answer to an urgent policy question,” according to AFP (10/30). Co-author Kenneth Freedberg, director of the MGH Medical Practice Evaluation Center and professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, “We believe that continued international public and private partnerships can make [early HIV treatment cost effective] in other countries as well. With this kind of investment, we foresee dramatic decreases in infections and illness that could save millions of lives over the next decade,” an MGH press release states (10/30).