August 24, 2006
At the 16th International AIDS Conference, French scientists presented research indicating that the distribution of AIDS medicines is beneficial not only to patients' health but also to national economies.
The researchers studied the impact of expanded AIDS drug access in six African nations. Their statistical models suggested that by 2010, broad distribution of the drugs could reverse the economic damage done by AIDS in the past quarter-century in Angola, Benin, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast. Due partly to fiscal and political issues, the effect would be less pronounced in Zimbabwe and Central African Republic.
The results underline that "it's very important to get drugs to people as soon as possible," said Jean-Paul Moatti, one of the researchers. "At the level of global economic policy, this is very important."
At a typical cost of $200 per patient per year, it makes economic sense for wealthier nations to foot most of the bill for AIDS treatment in poor countries, said Dr. Mark Wainberg, co-chairperson of the conference and a Montreal HIV specialist. "The potential for economic devastation in Africa may be so great, we may do our own economies long-term harm if we don't help," he said.