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The Cost of Living
      #213654 - 11/02/06 01:56 PM

Wed Nov 1, 6:13 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Future treatment for the 40,000 people infected with
HIV in the United States every year will cost $12.1 billion annually, a new study showed on Wednesday.

U.S. patients infected with HIV can expect medical bills for current care related to the disease of $618,900 during their lifetimes, according to the study, which will appear in the November issue of Medical Care.

Current medical bills for U.S. HIV patients from the beginning of care until death average $2,100 per month. The projected lifetime HIV-related medical costs were based on life expectancies of 24.2 years for patients in optimal HIV care.

The study is intended to provide guidance for policy makers and ensure appropriate funds are allocated for HIV care and prevention, according to its authors.

"If they rely on outdated cost information, treatment programs will be underfunded and the economic value of HIV prevention will be understated," lead author Dr. Bruce Schackman, the head of the health policy at Weill Medical College of Cornell University's department of public health, said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 250,000 people with HIV in the United States -- a quarter of the total with the disease -- do not know they are infected.

Since combination therapy became available to U.S. HIV patients in 1996, life expectancies have risen, but so have medical bills. Medications now make up more than 70 percent of the expense of HIV treatment, according to the study.

The $618,000 lifetime HIV medical bill is comparable to the estimated lifetime medical cost for U.S. women under age 65 with cardiovascular disease, who can also have long life expectancies with appropriate medical management, the study found.

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