Cost of AIDS little on economic growth, colossal on mental health: WB

The impact of HIV and AIDS on economic growth is small in South Asia, where less than 0.5 per cent of the population is infected, reports the World Bank’s HIV and AIDS in South Asia: An Economic Development Risk released.
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Updated on Feb 28, 2009 01:29 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The impact of HIV and AIDS on economic growth is small in South Asia, where less than 0.5 per cent of the population is infected, reports the World Bank’s

HIV and AIDS in South Asia: An Economic Development Risk

released on Saturday.

“For India, the effect on GDP (0.16 per cent) corresponds to a one off loss of about 1.5 weeks of GDP growth but the welfare cost is high. The direct welfare cost of early death and lower life expectancy may be as high as 3-4 per cent of India’s GDP,” said Dr Mariam Claeson, regional coordinator, South Asia, World Bank.

It predicts that the cost of treatment could rise to US $1.8 billion by 2020, corresponding to 1.2 per cent of India's total health expenditure. “Something needs to be done about patents on AIDS drugs. The cost of second line antiretroviral drugs is phenomenal and if they are not made affordable, India may go the Thailand and Brazil way, where 75 per cent of the AIDS budget goes into treatment,” said National AIDS Control Organization Director General Sujatha Rao, speaking at the launch of the report.

AIDS in numbers: India 2007
2.31 million living wit HIV and AIDS
0.34 per cent adult prevalence in the general population
7.2 pr cent prevalence among injecting drug users
7.2 pr cent prevalence among injecting drug users
7.4 per cent men who have sex with men
5.1 per cent female sex workers
3.6 per cent people attending sexually-transmitted disease clinics

NACO has a budget of Rs 1,100 crore, of which about 30 per cent is spent on giving free treatment to 200,000 people with HIV and AIDS. According to NACO’s 2007 estimate, about 2.31 million people have HIV and AIDS in India.

The World Bank calculates that the annual cost of the mental trauma caused by HIV and AIDS per year, with 0.36 per cent of the population affected, is Rs 1,999.8 billion (7 per cent of the GDP), which is more than the annual health expenditure of Rs 1,356 billion (2004) for all ailments in India.

NACO’s Rao says it is absurd. “I don’t agree. It’s absurd… Economists love to quantify everything, from the cost of listening to western classical music to listening to Carnatic music, and that’s what they have done here. This figure is based on indicators of mental health based on self reported occurrence of some feelings. It’s very abstract,” she said.

What the report does well is focus on the micro-impact of disease and the need to provide social security to the poor to keep them healthy and prolong life. Medical expenses for people with HIV, for example, account for 11 per cent of household income as compared to 3 per cent for families not affected by HIV.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sanchita is the health & science editor of the Hindustan Times. She has been reporting and writing on public health policy, health and nutrition for close to two decades. She is an International Reporting Project fellow from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and was part of the expert group that drafted the Press Council of India’s media guidelines on health reporting, including reporting on people living with HIV.

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