Objective: Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) should be an important component in a country’s HIV/AIDS prevention and care strategy. However, the high cost of VCT raises concerns about the affordability of VCT in low-income countries. This study was designed to assess the costs of VCT and to identify potential ways of introducing VCT more affordably. Methodology: An economic evaluation was performed of VCT services in two rural health centres in Thika District and an urban health centre in Nairobi, Kenya. A contingent valuation study was also performed among VCT clients. Estimates were developed regarding the national cost of offering VCT services in Kenya. Results: VCT added US$6800 per year to the average cost of providing services at each of these three health centres. The evaluation revealed that the incremental cost, from the government’s perspective, of adding VCT is approximately $16 per client. The estimated incremental cost per client is significantly less than a previous cost estimate in Kenya which estimated a cost per client of $26. The difference in cost estimates is in part attributable to the emphasis of this project on integrating VCT services into existing health centres, rather than creating stand-alone sites. The cost of VCT services might be further reduced to as little as $8 per client if a government health worker could perform the counselling. A contingent valuation study indicated that most VCT clients would be willing to pay at least $2 for the service. However, if the full cost of the service were charged to the client, less than 5% of clients indicated they were willing and able to pay for the service. Conclusions: Integrating services into existing health centres can significantly reduce the cost of VCT. Additional cost reductions may be feasible if health centre staff are hired to perform the counselling. Furthermore, it appears that some level of cost recovery from VCT clients is feasible and can contribute to sustainability, although it is very unlikely that the full cost of the service could be recovered from the clients. The national provision of VCT in all Kenyan health centres is likely to be an affordable option, although additional operational research is required to determine the most appropriate way of scaling up VCT services throughout the country.
Health Policy and Planning (2002) 17 (2) pp. 187-195 [doi:10.1093/heapol/17.2.187]