Testing African couples for HIV is cost-effective prevention strategy

September 30, 2010

As researchers and policymakers work toward an effective HIV vaccine in a constrained global economy, cost-effective prevention strategies such as Couples Voluntary Counseling and Testing (CVCT) must take a larger role in efforts to decrease the rates of HIV/AIDS in Africa, says Emory University HIV/AIDS vaccine researcher Susan Allen, MD, MPH.

Allen, who has worked to combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa for more than 25 years, highlighted the value of CVCT and other cost-effective HIV prevention strategies today at the AIDS Vaccine 2010 Conference in Atlanta.

"The majority of new HIV infections are acquired from a spouse, and couples are the largest HIV risk group in Africa," says Allen, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the Emory School of Medicine and adjunct faculty member in the Rollins School of Public Health. "By using CVCT to identify those people who do not share the same HIV status as their spouse or partner, we're in a better place to move forward efficiently and effectively once a vaccine does become available."

Allen, founder of the Rwanda Zambia HIV Research Group (RZHRG), notes that the positive impact of CVCT has been supported by published evidence since the early 1990s, yet the program has not yet been implemented on a wide scale. Of more than 30 million Africans tested for HIV, less than one percent has been tested with their spouses, says Allen.

"Funding agencies are only now beginning to understand and appreciate the value of CVCT as part of a broader HIV/AIDS strategy," Allen says.

An estimated 23 million Africans are HIV positive, yet only 3 million are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ARVT). The World Health Organization calculates that for every two new ARVT patients, five new HIV infections occur.

The U.S. government spends approximately $2.2 billion - 10 percent of the entire U.S. bilateral foreign assistance budget - on antiretroviral treatment. Treating one ARVT patient for 10 years costs about $7,000. In comparison, providing couples with voluntary counseling and testing would prevent new HIV infections at a cost of about $300 each, and would leverage other vital programs such as family planning, Allen says.

"The population of Zambia, for example, has grown by more than 50 percent over the last 20 years, but the U.S. has only allocated about 1.3 percent of its budget for family planning. At the same time, more than 60 percent of these budgets have been earmarked for antiretroviral drugs and care, even though less than two percent of the population is on ARVT."

As the population steadily increases, Allen says, funding agencies will face even more pressure to use their funds wisely.

"CVCT is an economical, sustainable and proven model for reducing the rate of HIV/AIDS infections in Africa."
-end-
The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has $2.3 billion in operating expenses, 18,000 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,500 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta. Learn more about Emory's health sciences: http://emoryhealthblog.com - @emoryhealthsci (Twitter) - http://emoryhealthsciences.org

Emory Health Sciences

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.