Objective: Determine the cost-effectiveness of initiating and monitoring highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in developing countries according to developing world versus developed world guidelines.
Design: Lifetime Markov model incorporating costs, quality of life, survival, and transmission to sexual contacts.
Methods: We evaluated treating patients with HIV in South Africa according to World Health Organization (WHO) "3 by 5" guidelines (treat CD4 counts <or=200 cells/mm or patients with AIDS, and monitor CD4 cell counts every 6 months) versus modified WHO guidelines that incorporate the following key differences from developed world guidelines: treat CD4 counts <or=350 cells/mm or viral loads >100,000 copies/mL, and monitor CD4 cell counts and viral load every 3 months.
Results: Incorporating transmission to partners (excluding indirect costs), treating patients according to developed versus developing world guidelines increased costs by US $11,867 and increased life expectancy by 3.00 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), for an incremental cost-effectiveness of $3956 per QALY. Including indirect costs, over the duration of the model, there are net cost savings to the economy of $39.4 billion, with increased direct medical costs of $60.5 billion offset by indirect cost savings of $99.9 billion.
Conclusions: Treating patients with HIV according to developed versus developing world guidelines is highly cost-effective and may result in substantial long-term savings.