Senior author Mark Lurie, a Brown University epidemiology professor and colleagues say if the South African government followed a recent recommendation by the World Health Organization to start anti-retrovirals sooner in the progression of the disease it would save the country money after 16 years.
"South Africa, the country with the most people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, has not yet adopted the WHO treatment initiation criteria," Lurie says in a statement.
"We used a mathematical model to predict the impact of adopting the new WHO guidelines on HIV prevalence, incidence and cost. We found that changing the treatment guidelines would have a profound impact on HIV incidence. It would require, over five years, an additional 7 percent investment, resulting in 28 percent more patients receiving HIV treatment. After 16 years, the cumulative net costs reach a break-even point."
The study, published in PLoS One, found the initial costs of adopting the new guidelines will be greater because of the increased number of people now eligible for treatment, in the long run costs would be saved because of the reduced number of new human immunodeficiency virus infections.