Athens, Greece – Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection represents a chronic disease affecting about 35 million people worldwide. With the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), patients’ life expectancy has been prolonged and the quality of life has increased, though this has led to an ever-increasing cost of the infection. As a result, especially in a time where austerity measures are being taken in a large number of countries, effective disease management represents a challenge, and policy makers and practitioners need to have up-to-date data on costs.
As described in more detail in the article, “Estimation of the Direct Cost of HIV-Infected Patients in Greece on an Annual Basis,” researchers from the National School of Public Health and the Red Cross General Hospital in Greece, performed a cost study, including all patients followed in the HIV special unit at a general hospital in Athens. All direct medical costs and antiretroviral costs associated with HIV management were assessed from the social insurance perspective. They found that patients with low CD4 cell count represented greater use of health services and therefore costs were higher. Antiretroviral therapy represented the largest part of expenses regardless of the health state.
By analyzing the data collected through the medical records of 447 patients, researchers estimated the total direct costs at €6,860 per patient on an annual basis regardless of the CD4 cell count. Antiretroviral therapy represented 83.7% of the aforesaid expenses. Patients counting less CD4 cells presented higher use of health services (laboratory tests, outpatient visits, hospital admissions), leading towards a trend of higher cost, as the CD4 levels decreased.
The researchers concluded that efforts should be focused on prevention and early diagnosis enhancement of HIV infection. The reinforcement of such health policies could significantly reduce HIV-infection costs, through the control of the spread of the virus and the effective management of infected patients.