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Dramatic Impact of your Investment

HIV/AIDS can have a devastating impact on societies because many of the people it kills are in the prime of their reproductive and productive lives. In economic terms, this means decreased productivity of the workforce, increased labor costs due to higher turnover and decreased availability of skilled labor, as well as an overall erosion of the economy. In social terms, the impact can be even more profound. The prolonged illness and eventual death that occur when AIDS is not treated leads to the fragmentation of families, with a rising number of AIDS orphans, and financial strain on families who lose the primary breadwinner. Additionally, due to the fact that many AIDS orphans and other children affected by AIDS drop out of school, the opportunities open to the next generation diminish and the skill base of societies is weakened. In some countries in Africa, estimates are that school enrollment has decreased by 20% - 36% due to AIDS.1

While the potential impact AIDS can have on societies is profound, relatively small investments in building the capacity of the healthcare system to respond to the epidemic can substantially mitigate the social and economic effects of the disease. ICEHA’s programs are designed to build the medical human resources in countries in an extremely cost-effective and efficient manner. The direct impact these programs have on local populations is immense. Four of ICEHA’s volunteers (two doctors, two nurses) working for three months each in one setting, are able to rapidly build up the clinical skills of 50 local healthcare providers in a lasting way. Every local healthcare worker that is trained by ICEHA is able to:

  • Provide care to 250 HIV-infected patients per year on antiretroviral treatment or provide care to more than 300 HIV-infected patients per year not yet on antiretroviral treatment per year.
  • Communicate HIV prevention messages to an additional 5000 people per year. This is a very important aspect that does not happen unless the healthcare worker is trained in HIV/AIDS.

This means that sending just four volunteers can result in increased capacity to provide HIV care to 12,500 – 15,000 patients and communicate HIV prevention messages to 250,000 people per year. The total cost to send 4 volunteers is $127,000, of which only $24,000 is needed in cash funding.

In addition to the direct impact of ICEHA’s programs on the care provided to HIV patients, the programs also have a much larger social and economic impact on societies by building up the overall capacity of healthcare systems and therefore improving the health of populations:

Social Impact of ICEHA’s Programs:

  • Family structures are maintained. Studies have shown that families are very likely to become fragmented and disperse if a key adult family member dies.2 Improving the quality of healthcare in countries and therefore decreasing mortality due to HIV/AIDS has a direct impact on keeping families together.

  • Educational opportunities increase, as teachers infected with HIV are able to remain in the classroom instead of becoming too ill to teach and as children are able to remain in school instead of caring for sick parents or working to support their families. With increased education, opportunities open to the next generation are greatly improved.

  • Poverty is decreased, as people are either prevented from becoming ill in the first place or are given treatment and are able to continue working.

  • Access to healthcare is expanded. Building up the healthcare infrastructure and increasing the number of trained local healthcare workers leads to the expansion of healthcare beyond the larger city centers into rural populations that have traditionally had little access to care.

Economic Impact of ICEHA’s Programs:

Investments in healthcare infrastructure lead to healthier populations, with longer life spans. This is particularly true for AIDS, in which proper care and medication can dramatically increase the life expectancy of patients. In turn, this leads to economic growth. In specific, the World Health Organization estimates that each 10% improvement in life expectancy at birth is associated with an increase in economic growth of 0.3% to 0.4% per year.3 There are several ways that improvements in health stimulate economic growth:

  • Increased worker productivity: Investments in health lead to healthier populations, which increases worker productivity (because of better physical condition and fewer lost workdays due to illness).4

  • Increased longevity: Investments in health lead to increased life expectancy, which has numerous economic impacts. Not only does it mean more years of earning power and consumption, it also means that individuals will be more likely to invest a larger portion of their income to savings. This increase in the savings rate is likely to spur overall economic growth.

  • Increased skill and human capital: People in good health are more likely to invest in education than those in poor health because they expect to live long enough to enjoy the benefits of increased skills. A more educated population leads to greater productivity and drives economic development. In addition, people in good health are more likely to benefit from education because they are better able to attend school regularly and have a higher capacity to learn and retain information.

With a relatively small investment of donations from funders and medical expertise and time from volunteers, ICEHA’s programs have the potential to not only positively impact the quality of care provided to HIV patients, but the entire social and economic development of societies.

  1. UNAIDS. HIV/AIDS, human resources and sustainable development : World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002. January 2002.
  2. UNAIDS. HIV/AIDS, human resources and sustainable development : World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002. January 2002.
  3. World Health Organization. Macroeconomics and Health: Investing in Health for Economic Development. Report of the Commission and Macroeconomics and Health, chaired by Jeffrey Sachs. December 2001.
  4. Bloom, David E., and David Canning. “The Health and Wealth of Nations.” 2001.