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The Macroeconomic Consequences of Renouncing to Universal Access to Antiretroviral Treatment for HIV in Africa: A Micro-Simulation Model
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Author: Bruno Ventelou et al.

by Bruno Ventelou, Yves Arrighi, Robert Greener, Erik Lamontagne, Patrizia Carrieri, Jean-Paul Moatti


Previous economic literature on the cost-effectiveness of antiretroviral treatment (ART) programs has been mainly focused on the microeconomic consequences of alternative use of resources devoted to the fight against the HIV pandemic. We rather aim at forecasting the consequences of alternative scenarios for the macroeconomic performance of countries.


We used a micro-simulation model based on individuals aged 15–49 selected from nationally representative surveys (DHS for Cameroon, Tanzania and Swaziland) to compare alternative scenarios : 1-freezing of ART programs to current levels of access, 2- universal access (scaling up to 100% coverage by 2015, with two variants defining ART eligibility according to previous or current WHO guidelines). We introduced an “artificial” ageing process by programming methods. Individuals could evolve through different health states: HIV negative, HIV positive (with different stages of the syndrome). Scenarios of ART procurement determine this dynamics. The macroeconomic impact is obtained using sample weights that take into account the resulting age-structure of the population in each scenario and modeling of the consequences on total growth of the economy.


Increased levels of ART coverage result in decreasing HIV incidence and related mortality. Universal access to ART has a positive impact on workers' productivity; the evaluations performed for Swaziland and Cameroon show that universal access would imply net cost-savings at the scale of the society, when the full macroeconomic consequences are introduced in the calculations. In Tanzania, ART access programs imply a net cost for the economy, but 70% of costs are covered by GDP gains at the 2034 horizon, even in the extended coverage option promoted by WHO guidelines initiating ART at levels of 350 cc/mm3 CD4 cell counts.


Universal Access ART scaling-up strategies, which are more costly in the short term, remain the best economic choice in the long term. Renouncing or significantly delaying the achievement of this goal, due to “legitimate” short term budgetary constraints would be a misguided choice.