Modeling the cost-effectiveness of HIV treatment: how to buy the most 'health' when resources are limited

Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2013 Nov;8(6):544-9. doi: 10.1097/COH.0000000000000005.


Purpose of review: To summarize recent cost-effectiveness analyses (CEAs) that evaluate optimal treatment strategies for persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

Recent findings: Efforts to attain universal coverage of current treatment guidelines (e.g., initiation at CD4 cell count <350 cells/μl) are generally very costeffective. Expansion of access beyond current guidelines will additionally improve clinical outcomes and aversion of new HIV infections; however, cost-effectiveness is more uncertain. Increasing access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) offers greater health benefit than investing the same funds in intensive laboratory monitoring for those on ART, particularly in those settings in which universal coverage has not yet been attained. Recommended ART regimens (e.g., tenofovir) have favorable cost-effectiveness when compared with substitution of newer, more expensive agents (e.g., rilpivirine, darunavir) or substitution of older, cheaper alternatives that are more toxic (e.g., stavudine).

Summary: There is increasing use of CEA to evaluate decisions regarding HIV treatment in order to buy the most 'health' with limited resources. Expansion of ART access provides substantial clinical and preventive benefit and offers favorable cost-effectiveness. Intensive laboratory monitoring may not be the highest priority in settings in which resources are constrained. Further work on the economic impact, clinical effectiveness, and feasibility of ART treatment for all (e.g., no CD4 cell initiation criteria) is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / economics*
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / economics*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / economics*
  • Health Resources / economics
  • Humans
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents