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November 24th marks the beginning of Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week and the release of this report – The Economic Cost of HIV/AIDS in Canada, written by JoAnn Kingston-Riechers, PhD, from the Institute of Health Economics and the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Alberta – should serve as a sobering reminder of the impact of approximately 3,070 new HIV infections in Canada each year. The report focusses on the costs of treatment and the costs associated with loss of productivity for lost work hours throughout the lifetime of those recently infected individuals (as of 2009).
“We know that this is about more than just numbers,” said Monique Doolittle-Romas, Executive Director of the Canadian AIDS Society. “Living with HIV has an impact on an individual’s quality of life. We see this as an opportunity to address the needs of people living with HIV in Canada.”
The dollar value of that impact on quality of life has been estimated at $380,000 per person, and when added to health care costs ($250,000/person), and labour productivity ($670,000/person) we arrive at a very sobering number. In 2009, when there were an estimated 3,070 new infections, the total cost hit just over $4 billion. The bottom line? HIV/AIDS is costing Canadians $1.3 million per each new diagnosis of HIV. But it’s not about money – the primary concern is for the affected lives.
Al McNutt, volunteer Chair of the Board of Directors reminds us: “HIV is entirely preventable; and even with such alarming figures, we have seen successes in prevention in Canada – our rates of HIV have dropped from over 6,000 per year in the mid-eighties to an estimated 3,070 new cases in 2009.”
“That is the good news,” McNutt explains. The challenge follows in reaching those people who are at risk of HIV infection. “We need culturally appropriate interventions to stop the spread of HIV,” advises McNutt. This is why funding to fight HIV/AIDS is needed now more than ever. Infections can be prevented with further investment in prevention campaigns.
This year for World AIDS Day and AIDS Awareness Week, the Canadian AIDS Society has launched, with the support of the federal government and Abbott Laboratories, a national campaign with the theme of “Do Something!” Through social media, a Youtube competition and print poster the message is being spread. The message is simple – we can all do something about the spread of HIV in Canada. And the economic case for action has never been clearer.
“Helping prevent the spread of HIV – we’ll save more than money, we’ll change the life of a friend, colleague or member of our community,” reminds Doolittle-Romas, “Isn’t it time that we all Do Something?”
“When we see the human and financial costs of HIV/AIDS, it becomes even more apparent that we all need to increase our efforts to prevent and treat this destructive disease,” said Russell Williams, President of Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D). “We are proud to support the Canadian AIDS Society study as it does invaluable work in raising awareness and supports people living with HIV in Canada.”
The report is available online at www.cdnaids.ca/economic. Print copies are also available upon request.
The Canadian AIDS Society gratefully acknowledges Rx&D: Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies for their support and funding for the development and production of this paper.
Bob Leahy, Editor, PositiveLite.com says why this story is important.
If you are a person living with HIV, you need to be knowledgeable about the disease, and how we avoid it. You need as well to be able to advocate with the rest of the HIV community for prevention campaigns that not only save lives – and that’s most important, we think– but also which save all of us, infected or not, money. Lots of money. This report demonstrates that it makes no economic or humanitarian sense to skimp on AIDS funding, here or abroad. The facts and figures are here for all of us to use. Tell your MP, tell anybody who will listen, that cutting AIDS funding costs money, not saves it. It may just be the one argument they’ll listen to!.