The Lazarus Drug: The Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Economic Growth

The Lazarus Drug: The Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Economic Growth


If you look back in history, there’s really
this astonishing pattern in the data. For a long time, in the ‘80s and ‘90s
economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa was lagging far behind the rest of the world. And then, growth in Africa took off in the
early 2000s – people call that the sub-Saharan African Growth Miracle. And then when you look at the history of health,
you look at these amazing patterns in the data that life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa
was just suppressed because of the HIV epidemic, declining through the ‘80s and ‘90s and
really hitting its nadir around the turn of the millennium. And so, my question was are these patterns
related? Is it a coincidence that just at the moment
when we started to deliver antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa and started
to take away the scourge of AIDS – my paper says that basically says that no, it’s not
a coincidence. Actually, if we look carefully at the timing
of these two events, scaling up antiretroviral therapy in Africa had a positive effect on
growth in sub-Saharan Africa and it could explain up to a third of what people call
the sub-Saharan African Growth Miracle. Here, you’re really offering a population
health improvement that’s really targeted to the [] working population. What does HIV do? It takes those people out of the work force,
whether because they’re sick or they pass away. What the antiretroviral drugs do, they bring
all those people who are so important to the economy and so important to sustaining their
families back into the workforce. So, the economic benefits of rolling out antiretroviral
therapy are substantial. What my analysis says is that as long as we
maintain antiretroviral therapy coverage, we can hope to see these increases in income. If we fail to maintain those levels of coverage
or if we don’t address emerging problems with drug resistance then those economic benefits
could be lost and the economic consequences, as well as the human consequences, could be
devastating.

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