The Current State of the Epidemic:
Why We Need to Step Up Our Efforts

9. Acting now will save the health system millions of dollars

with the growing number of new infections, the increasing number of people living longer with HIV, and the cost of new therapies, the economic costs associated with AIDS continue to rise. According to an Alberta study, the direct cost of HIV medical care per patient per month increased from about $655 in 1995 to $1,036 in 2001, primarily due to HAART. In 1995, antiretroviral drugs accounted for 30%, or $198, of the cost per patient per month; in 2001, they accounted for 69% or $775. While the health care system is now spending more on drugs for HIV, because of these drugs it is spending less on in-patient, out-patient and home care.31

In Canada, lifetime care and treatment costs have been estimated in 1998 to total about $160,000 per person with HIV, While the indirect costs associated with lost productivity and premature death may be as high as $600,000 per person.32 In addition, treatment costs vary depending on where people live and where they are treated. For example, people living in rural or remote areas who must travel to receive care often have significantly higher costs. While it is possible to calculate the treatment costs associated with HIV, the personal and social costs of each case of HIV -- for the person infected, his or her friends and family, and society -- are immeasurable.

Every HIV infection that is prevented avoids approximately three quarters of a million dollars in direct and indirect costs.33 According to a recent analysis of the costs associated with HIV/AIDS, reducing the number of new infections each year by 50% would save the health care system and society $1.5 billion over a five-year period. As the report notes, "Because of the enormous economic burden of HIV/AIDS, prevention and management strategies are highly cost effective, and will produce significant long-term direct and indirect cost savings to the Canadian economy."34


Krentz HB, Auld MC, Gill MJ. The changing direct costs of medical care for patients with HIV/AIDS, 1995--2001. CMAJ. 2003 July 22; Vol. 169, No 2: 106--110.

Martin Spigelman Research Associates. Getting Ahead of the Epidemic: the Federal Government Role in the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS 1998-2008. 2003.


GPI Atlantic. The Cost of HIV/AIDS in Canada. June 2001.

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