The Cost of Stigma

Under recommendations from the CDC, everyone from 13 to 64 should be blood-tested as routinely as they are for high cholesterol. That way doctors could detect the disease and start treatment earlier among the 250,000 Americans who have AIDS and don’t know it. The other main reason is to remove the stigma attached to high-risk people by having all among roughly 200 million adolescents and adults treated.

CDC concedes it doesn’t know how many people would be diagnosed, but it claims that even in low-risk populations, testing would be cost effective.

Obviously, not everyone will consent to the test or even go to a doctor in the first place. But at a minimum suggested cost of $15 a test, multiplied by about 200 million and divided by 250,000, that works out to a potential total cost to the health system of $30 billion, or $12,000 for each surprise diagnosis.

Early detection for any disease is essential, but the question still has to be at what cost and whether the cost of screening everyone is higher than the cost of individual embarrassment.

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1 thought on “The Cost of Stigma”

  1. Two hundred million tests at fifteen dollars each would cost three billion dollars.

    Would spending that money lead to lowering the total cost of treating the two-hundred-fifty thousand unsuspecting carriers of AIDS? Or reduce their potential to spread the disease further in a way that would reduce overall costs to the health care system? How do we calculate the costs so that we can tell whether this makes sense? Is there a health cost associated with individual embarrassment (costs of treating failed suicides, perhaps)?

    Would we save more lives (and lower health care costs, perhaps) by spending those three billion dollars on improving the nations roadways?

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