CHAI finds low health care facility costs for HIV treatment

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Kate Condliffe from the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) presented a very interesting costing study at the International HIV Treatment as Prevention meeting in Vancouver Monday. The study analyzed the cost of providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the facility level at 161 representative facilities in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia.  This was a top-down study that assessed the total costs of ART at the facility divided by the total patient years, to arrive at an average cost per patient-year.

The facility costs were much lower than expected, ranging from $136 per patient per year in Malawi to $692 per patient per year in South Africa. Costs are higher in South Africa due to higher salaries and more lab testing.  Antiretrovirals (ARVs) constituted about 50 percent of the total costs and ARVS plus personnel contributed to 70 percent of total costs.  Lab spending was generally low with an average of only 1.2 to 1.5 CD4 tests per year per patient.  ARV costs are driven by regimen choice, but prices are declining and the increases in cost associated with the movement away from D4T will not be as great as expected given the falling price of tenofovir, according to the study authors.  Personnel costs were generally low and driven by staff mix. The total amount of annual resources expended in these countries for treatment at the facility level was less than $1 billion. (This figure does not include facility treatment expenditures for South Africa).

Utilization rates  for HIV treatment services were low in many sites, suggesting the potential to scale up without increasing costs significantly at existing facilities.  Attrition rates were better than expected with a range of two percent in Rwanda to eight percent in South Africa at 12 months. Rwanda was the clear stand out in successfully managing new patients and retaining them in care.

The bottom line according to Condliffe – “There are not significant savings opportunities to be had in the cost of HIV treatment at the facility level outside of South Africa.”  There are opportunities to improve outcomes by identifying HIV-infected patients sooner and initiating ART earlier.  One quarter of the facilities were initiating treatment in most patients at CD4 counts below 100.

Given low cost levels, aggressive HIV treatment scale up should be possible, Condlifee said. There is a need to optimize spending above the facility level and to optimize spending on non-treatment costs.  In a later presentation by Stephen Becker from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the funder of this CHAI study, he noted that work is continuing to analyze costs “above the facility level.”  Inquiring minds look forward to that analysis.

3 thoughts on “CHAI finds low health care facility costs for HIV treatment

  1. omar sued

    Thank you very much for this good comment. Previously, based on information provided by MoH, UNAIDS suggested that Africa had very high facility costs. Now we have information showing that, as in Latin America, in Africa a big chunck of the money goes to ART. Obviously, in LAC this portion is bigger due to the higher costs of drugs, and the use of non recommended drugs.

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  3. Haruna Baba Jibril

    This is an interesting finding regarding treatment cost at facility level. It will be nice to see how this works out in Botswana where I am aware of detailed costing and forecasting, supported by CHAI, has been done at a national level, and where there has been a massive roll out of ART over the past several years. This will certainly assist GoB in moving forward with this universal roll out and optimzing treatment in the most cost-effective manner with dwindling parnter funding support.

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