US AIDS Care Costs
Now Nearly $7 Billion A Year
By Linda A. Johnson
Associated Press Writer
Note - The best statistical estimation as reported by MSNBC is that two-thirds of those with AIDS are receiving regular treatment at this time.
Treating people infected with the AIDS virus in the United States is less expensive than generally believed _ about $20,000 per person per year, according to a study that tries to put the best number yet on the cost.
The study estimated a total cost of $6.7 billion annually, or less than 1 percent of all U.S. medical expenditures on patients. ``Compared to what we spend on all kinds of other things, it's just not that much money'' for the government to spend, said project co-director Dr. Samuel A. Bozzette, a health care researcher at RAND, the Santa Monica, Calif., think tank overseeing the government-sponsored research.
The $20,000 tab is roughly one-third of the estimates from the early 1990s, when firm figures were hard to come by, and before the advent of AIDS drug cocktails that have proved powerfully effective in fending off the disease and keeping patients out of the hospital.
The study was conducted in 1996, just as the combination therapy was coming into widespread use. It found 55 percent of people being treated for HIV were taking one of the newer AIDS drugs by December 1996. Doctors believe use of the new drugs has since risen sharply.
The study estimated that only half of all American adults infected with the AIDS virus saw their doctor at least once every six months. Many of those not getting care were unaware they were infected. However, an encouraging 85 percent of those with full-blown AIDS were getting regular care, with most of them seeing AIDS specialists. Early treatment can slow the disease, extend lifespan and save money by reducing hospitalizations.
The study was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. It was based on interviews of 3,072 people treated in hospitals or doctors' offices in dozens of urban and rural areas around the country. ``I think the study is going to be very helpful'' in better targeting federal programs, said Dr. Joseph F. O'Neill, associate administrator for HIV/AIDS at the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.a