HIV infections diagnosed in Canada this year will cost more than $4 billion over the patients' lifetimes, the Canadian AIDS Society estimates.

That's 22 per cent higher than previously estimated, the society says in a report released Thursday at the start of Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week.

The report focuses on the costs of treatment as well as lost productivity and work hours for people who were infected in 2009, when there were 3,070 new HIV cases. It also estimates HIV's toll on the quality of life in general, citing research indicating people with HIV are often affected by anxiety and depression and may enjoy life less even if they don't have symptoms.

The last time researchers estimated the direct and indirect costs of HIV was 2001.

"Since 2001, increased survival rates have reduced productivity losses per person and increased the cost of health care per person with HIV/AIDS," says the new report, written by JoAnn Kingston-Riechers of the Institute of Health Economics and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta.

The estimated lifetime costs for an individual infected in 2009 would break down this way, according to the research:

  • $380,000 for the impact on quality of life.
  • $250,000 for health care.
  • $670,000 for lost productivity.

"The bottom line? HIV/AIDS is costing Canadians $1.3 million per each new diagnosis of HIV," the AIDS group said in a news release.

Although the annual number of new HIV cases and the longterm costs are "alarming," the figures have improved substantially since the mid-1980s, when there were about 6,000 new infections a year, said Al McNutt, the chair of the AIDS society’s board.

"The challenge follows in reaching those people who are at risk of HIV infection," McNutt said.

The organization called for a greater investment in prevention campaigns. It also announced a national campaign called "Do Something" to get the message out about stopping the spread of HIV, which is a preventable disease.