Belgium counts more than 1,000 new HIV infections each year, which is a lot compared to other European countries. Fortunately, an HIV infection is no longer a death sentence. With the available treatments, an HIV-positive person lives almost as long as someone who is not infected with the virus, on the condition that you daily take virus inhibitors. However, this increases the number of HIV positive people from year to year, which also increases the annual necessary budget for HIV treatment.
Combined prevention may decrease the further spread of the HIV virus
Medical experts from several HIV treatment centers joined hands with several health economists and calculated that the introduction of combined prevention could reduce the number of new annual HIV infections by 2030 by half. This would result in an immediate saving of 33.7 million EURO by 2030.
Combined prevention involves three targeted forms of prevention
In addition to using the classic condom, preventive ingestion of certain antiviral drugs prior to sexual contact with an HIV-positive person may prevent HIV infection.
Rapid treatment of HIV-positive individuals can reduce the number of HIV viruses in the blood so that the virus is no longer transmitted in any blood or sexual contact.
Many HIV-positive people are unaware of their infection, which leads to a further spread of the HIV epidemic through risky behavior. Actively looking for HIV-infected persons and initiating treatment with virus inhibitors can diminish a further spread of HIV.
Without additional efforts, the epidemic would further expand with approximately 1,350 new HIV diagnoses per year. This would lead to a total expenditure of 260 million EURO by 2030.
"Our analysis shows that investing in prevention, is earned back on the longer term. Doing nothing is definitely not an option," says Lieven Annemans from Ghent University.
"The study we are publishing is the result of a collaboration between specialists of our AIDS reference centers and a number of reputable health economists. We have modeled the impact of combined prevention policy in Belgium, thus calculating the effect of a health policy that reduces the number of new HIV infections in our country. This policy would be a big progress in controlling the HIV epidemic in our country over the next five years," says Jean-Christophe Goffard of the ULB-Erasme Aids Reference Center.
The use of preventive antiviral drugs and the rapid treatment of HIV-positive persons are actions that have already been introduced by the Minister of Health and Social Affairs Maggie De Block.
Vermeersch, Sebastian, et al. "Health and budget impact of combined HIV prevention–first results of the BELHIVPREV model." Acta Clinica Belgica (2017): 1-14.