DP15984 Disease Surveillance, Mortality and Race: The Case of HIV/AIDS in the United States

Author(s): Frederikke Kristensen, Paul Sharp
Publication Date: March 2021
Keyword(s): AIDS, HIV, surveillance, United States
JEL(s): I18, J18, N32
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15984

The importance of testing and reporting has frequently been stated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but studies on the effectiveness of surveillance are still lacking. We thus turn to the last great epidemic, HIV/AIDS. In 1985 the first blood test for HIV became available, but prior to 1996 no effective medical treatment was available. We exploit the differential rollout of HIV surveillance across US states between 1985 and 2008 and find that HIV reporting helped reduce both AIDS cases and mortality. After the introduction of the effective treatment, HAART, there is no longer a significant effect on mortality, but the effect on reducing cases remains. For blacks, however, the impact on mortality is apparent even after 1996. Surveillance is therefore an important tool for combating epidemics, even in the presence of effective treatments, perhaps due to its impact on the avoidance of risky behavior.