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Study: Expanded HIV Testing May Reduce Costs, Extend Lives

Researchers at Yale University have concluded that routine HIV testing would bring substantial economic benefits in prolonging the lives of those infected and making treatment less expensive. The scientists used complex computer models to prove the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Like regular screening for chronic conditions such as colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the computer model created by David Paltiel and his colleagues at Yale University in Connecticut found substantial health and economic benefits from regular HIV testing among all but the lowest risk individuals.

The study, reported this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, concludes routine, voluntary testing every three to five years would bring substantial benefits.

"It's a severe disease which left if untreated produces a substantial bout of morbidity and mortality," said David Paltiel. "It has a long asymptotic phase which we can diagnose using very effective, very cheap tests. And early detection means that we can link people to more effective care, life prolonging care, and as well as proven counseling that helps reduce further transmission of infection in the population. So, by all those standards, HIV testing is an obvious value for money and should be pursued aggressively.

Mr. Paltiel says many people who are infected with HIV don't know it. That increases the chances of spreading the virus to others and adds to the cost of treatment. The study was based on data collected in the United States. But Yale population expert David Paltiel says the economic model could be applied worldwide. "It doesn't cost nothing to test," he said. "And isn't worth doing unless it triggers a pathway of care and counseling."

A separate cost-benefit analysis using a different model and published in the Journal also found the benefits of regular HIV testing far outweighs the cost of treating AIDS.