Background: A rapid scaling up of HIV interventions in India is anticipated, but systematic information on how costs of HIV interventions change over time and programme scale is not available to inform planning.
Methods: We studied the changes in unit costs of two major interventions, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and sex worker programmes in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh between 2002-2003 and 2005-2006 fiscal years. Economic costs (from the provider perspective) and output data from 17 publicly funded VCT centers and 14 sex worker programmes were collected using standardized methods. We calculated unit costs for each programme in each period and explored possible reasons for the changes seen.
Results: In 2005-2006, the VCT centers served 66 445 clients and the sex worker programmes served 32 550. The unit cost of providing VCT dropped over 3 years by half to Indian Rupees (INR) 147.5 (US$3.33) mainly because the number of clients doubled. There was no decrease in the average time spent counseling each client. The unit cost of providing services to sex workers increased 2.4 times over 3 years to INR 1401 (US$31.6) as a result of increases in male condom distribution, staff salaries and training, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, all suggesting improved services.
Conclusion: The unit cost of these two interventions changed dramatically over a 3-year period, but in opposite directions. The current unit cost for VCT in Andhra Pradesh is much lower than the estimated global average for low-income settings. These local longitudinal cost data are useful to inform the currently planned scaling up of HIV interventions in India.