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Over the rest of the life of a patient with HIV, how much does it cost to treat a patient on the average?
Feb 11, 1997

Over the rest of the life of a patient with HIV, how much does it cost to treat a patient on the average?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

I am not aware of any recent study that has looked into the overall costs of HIV care and treatment. Such studies have been done in the past, however costs have radically changed just in the past year or so. This is because of the use of new combination therapy, including the use of protease inhibitors. There are several variables that could affect the overall cost for HIV/AIDS patients. Some of these include:

Previously, we were only giving one antiviral drug at a time (monotherapy). In the past few years, we are now combining 2-3 antiviral drugs at a time. This will obviously increase the cost of antiviral treatment.

The newest drugs (especially the protease inhibitors) are extremely expensive. It can literally cost thousands of US dollars a year just for one protease inhibitor alone. When you add the cost of these expensive new drugs with existing drugs, the cost of care increases significantly. There are now clinical trials looking at combining 2 protease inhibitors together. That would be 2 very expensive drugs, plus the cost of the previously available drugs. The cost of treatment with 2 protease inhibitors, plus other antiviral drugs could potentially be enormous, and beyond the means of most people. In fact, many people cannot get access to any of the protease inhibitors, due to the extremely high cost of these drugs.

Previously, the primary test we used to monitor persons with HIV/AIDS was the CD4 cell count. Now, in addition to the CD4 cell count, we're also using viral load tests. This further increases the cost of care, especially since both of these tests are now part of the standard of care of persons with HIV/AIDS.

On a brighter note, as treatments improve, hospitalizations and the length of time in the hospital is decreasing in persons with AIDS. This lowers health care costs significantly. How much this savings is offsetting the cost of new treatments and tests is not currently known, but is being researched.

So, in summary, I cannot give you a good statistic as to the overall cost of taking care of a person with AIDS. There has been dramatic changes just in the past year that can affect the cost of care for persons with HIV/AIDS. We'll have to see whether the cost of care goes up or down in the next few years.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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