Context: A large proportion of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection enter care late in the HIV disease course. Late entry can increase expenditures for care.
Objective: To estimate direct medical care expenditures for HIV patients as a function of disease status at initial presentation to care. Late entry is defined as initial CD4 test result ≤ 200 cells/mm3, intermediate entry as initial CD4 counts >200, and ≤ 500 cells/mm3; and early entry as initial CD4 count >500.
Patients: The study included 8348 patients who received HIV primary care and who were newly enrolled between 2000 and 2006 at one of 10 HIV clinics participating in the HIV Research Network.
Design: We reviewed medical record data from 2000 to 2007. We estimated costs per outpatient visit and inpatient day, and monthly medication costs (antiretroviral and opportunistic illness prophylaxis). We multiplied unit costs by utilization measures to estimate expenditures for inpatient days, outpatient visits, HIV medications, and laboratory tests. We analyzed the association between cumulative expenditures and initial CD4 count, stratified by years in care.
Results: Late entrants comprised 43.1% of new patients. The number of years receiving care after enrollment did not differ significantly across initial CD4 groups. Mean cumulative treatment expenditures ranged from $27,275 to $61,615 higher for late than early presenters. After 7 to 8 years in care, the difference was still substantial.
Conclusions: Patients who enter medical care late in their HIV disease have substantially higher direct medical treatment expenditures than those who enter at earlier stages. Successful efforts to link patients with medical care earlier in the disease course may yield cost savings.