We review challenges for economic evaluation relevant to the global HIV response and consider how the practice of cost-effectiveness analysis could integrate approaches and insights from implementation science to enhance the impact and efficiency of HIV investments.
Numerous cost-effectiveness analyses have indicated good value for money from a wide array of interventions for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. There is limited evidence, however, regarding how cost-effectiveness information contributes to better decision-making around investment and action in the global HIV response.
In light of signals that cost-effectiveness analyses may be vulnerable to systematic bias toward overly optimistic conclusions, we emphasize two priorities for advancing the field of economic evaluation in HIV/AIDS and more broadly in global health: (1) systematic reevaluation of the cost-effectiveness literature with reference to ex-post empirical evidence on costs and effects in real-world programs and (2) development and adoption of good-practice guidelines for incorporating implementation and delivery aspects into economic evaluations. Toward the latter aim, we propose an integrative approach that focuses on comparative evaluation of strategies, which specify both technologies/interventions as well as the delivery platforms, complementary interventions, and actions needed to increase coverage, quality, and uptake of those technologies/interventions. Specific recommendations draw on several existing implementation science models that provide systematic frameworks for understanding implementation barriers and enablers, designing and choosing specific implementation and policy actions, and evaluating outcomes.
These preliminary steps aimed at bridging the divide between economic evaluation and implementation science can help to advance the practice of economic evaluation toward a science of comparative strategy evaluation.