Malawi study shows AIDS treatments help more than HIV patients

A University of Pennsylvania study shows that AIDS treatments in Malawi bring improved health and economic benefits to people who don’t have HIV.

The study results showed that the treatments aided people who don’t have HIV by resolving their fear of HIV and AIDS. The treatments also improved the productivity and mental health of people without HIV.

Hans-Peter Kohler, a demographer from the University of Pennsylvania, made this discovery in Malawi, where approximately 10 percent of the nation’s adult population has been diagnosed with HIV. During an epidemic that lasted from the 1990s to the early 2000s, life expectancy drastically fell, which made people fearful of the virus.

Scientists developed antiretroviral therapy (ART) as a drug cocktail to treat HIV. In 2008, ART reached rural Malawi and helped HIV patients. Even though it doesn’t cure the virus, people who receive ART can continue to live with HIV and never develop AIDS.

By extension, people without HIV still benefited from the treatments as they were not as fearful, which improved the local economy. Many people had been afraid that they would contract HIV.

"Their mental health significantly improved,” Kohler said. “They became less depressed. They ended up working more and being more productive. And that's not because they could benefit from treatment in some direct way.”

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