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S Afr Med J. 2000 Aug;90(8):794-8.

National and provincial estimated costs and cost effectiveness of a programme to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa.

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  • 1Centre for Epidemiological Research in Southern Africa, Medical Research Council, Hlabisa, KwaZulu-Natal.



To estimate the cost and cost effectiveness nationally and for each province of a programme to reduce mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV in South Africa.


A model developed to estimate cost and cost effectiveness of interventions in Hlabisa, KwaZulu-Natal, was modified and applied to each province. This model predicts a 37% reduction in paediatric HIV infections if short-course oral zidovudine (ZDV) plus infant formula feed for 4 months is provided within a strengthened health system. Estimates of the number of pregnancies and HIV prevalence among pregnant women per province in 1997 were combined with an estimated 30% MTCT rate. Costs were calculated from a health system perspective, and effectiveness was estimated as cost per infection averted and cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) gained.


In 1997, 63,397 paediatric HIV infections were estimated to have occurred in South Africa, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal (18,513, 29%) and Gauteng (10,417, 16%). The cost of a national programme is estimated at R155.9 million (1997 rand costs, 0.94% of the national health budget). Major cost items are drugs (R46.4 m, 30%), staff salaries (R45.8 m, 29%), and formula feed (R37.1 m, 24%). Most money would need to be spent in KwaZulu-Natal (R37.6 m, 24% of national cost), Gauteng (R25.2 m, 16%) and the Eastern Cape (R24 m, 15%). National cost per infection averted is R6,724, and R213 per DALY gained. Provincial DALY costs range from R176 to R369.


A national programme preventing 37% of expected paediatric HIV infections would cost a small fraction of the national health budget, at a cost equivalent to R3.89 per capita total population. The cost per DALY gained compares well with established public health and clinical interventions in middle-income countries, even without factoring in the care costs that would be saved through a successful programme. Cost effectiveness is greatest where HIV prevalence is highest.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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