Treating HIV with Antiretroviral Therapy Proven to be Cost-Effective

Study finds approximately $1 million could be saved annually through reduced workplace efficiency and attendance.

Study finds approximately $1 million could be saved annually through reduced workplace efficiency and attendance.

Administering antiretroviral therapy for patients with HIV infection may be cost saving for companies due to reductions in healthcare costs, absenteeism and staff turnover, according a recent study.

More than 2 million people are newly infected with HIV each year, usually through unprotected sex. HIV affects people at all stages of life, including those in the prime years of their working life. This increases absenteeism and turnover of the workforce, as well as the operating costs of companies working in countries where HIV infection is common.

The research, conducted by Gesine Meyer-Rath, from Boston University and the University of the Witwatersrand, Peter Vickerman, from University of Bristol and other colleagues, was published in PLOS Medicine.

The study authors developed a mathematical model to evaluate the past and future impact and costs to the employer of an antiretroviral treatment program provided since 2002 by a coal mining company operating at a number of South African mines. Of 9252 employees in the year 2010, 1149 tested positive for HIV and were enrolled in the company’s wellness program.

The study model estimated that increases in the survival and retention of those infected with HIV would lead to reductions in absenteeism and benefit payments for overall cost savings compared with a scenario of no antiretroviral treatment provision. By 2022, it is projected that the cost of HIV to the company will decrease by 5% and the cost per HIV positive employee would fall by 14%.

These projections translate into $1 million worth of savings per year, according to the research. However, the study did have some limitations in projecting these numbers, but the significance of the findings remains true regardless of these limitations.

The study also found that in countries where HIV prevalence is fairly low, antiretroviral therapy treatment would still prove to be cost-effective over a period of time.

“Beyond making good business sense, a company-level HIV care program including antiretroviral therapy could go a long way towards improving the strained labor relations in the South African mining sector, especially when improved access to healthcare extends to the entire community… It is crucial that strategies such as those under study here are replicated in other companies in similar settings,” the study authors wrote.