Screening Yield of HIV Antigen/Antibody Combination and Pooled HIV RNA Testing for Acute HIV Infection in a High-Prevalence Population

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Abstract

Importance

Although acute HIV infection contributes disproportionately to onward HIV transmission, HIV testing has not routinely included screening for acute HIV infection.

Objective

To evaluate the performance of an HIV antigen/antibody (Ag/Ab) combination assay to detect acute HIV infection compared with pooled HIV RNA testing.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Multisite, prospective, within-individual comparison study conducted between September 2011 and October 2013 in 7 sexually transmitted infection clinics and 5 community-based programs in New York, California, and North Carolina. Participants were 12 years or older and seeking HIV testing, without known HIV infection.

Exposures

All participants with a negative rapid HIV test result were screened for acute HIV infection with an HIV Ag/Ab combination assay (index test) and pooled human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) RNA testing. HIV RNA testing was the reference standard, with positive reference standard result defined as detectable HIV-1 RNA on an individual RNA test.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Number and proportion with acute HIV infections detected.

Results

Among 86836 participants with complete test results (median age, 29 years; 75.0% men; 51.8% men who have sex with men), established HIV infection was diagnosed in 1158 participants (1.33%) and acute HIV infection was diagnosed in 168 participants (0.19%). Acute HIV infection was detected in 134 participants with HIV Ag/Ab combination testing (0.15% [95% CI, 0.13%-0.18%]; sensitivity, 79.8% [95% CI, 72.9%-85.6%]; specificity, 99.9% [95% CI, 99.9%-99.9%]; positive predictive value, 59.0% [95% CI, 52.3%-65.5%]) and in 164 participants with pooled HIV RNA testing (0.19% [95% CI, 0.16%-0.22%]; sensitivity, 97.6% [95% CI, 94.0%-99.4%]; specificity, 100% [95% CI, 100%-100%]; positive predictive value, 96.5% [95% CI, 92.5%-98.7%]; sensitivity comparison, P < .001). Overall HIV Ag/Ab combination testing detected 82% of acute HIV infections detectable by pooled HIV RNA testing. Compared with rapid HIV testing alone, HIV Ag/Ab combination testing increased the relative HIV diagnostic yield (both established and acute HIV infections) by 10.4% (95% CI, 8.8%-12.2%) and pooled HIV RNA testing increased the relative HIV diagnostic yield by 12.4% (95% CI, 10.7%-14.3%).

Conclusions and Relevance

In a high-prevalence population, HIV screening using an HIV Ag/Ab combination assay following a negative rapid test detected 82% of acute HIV infections detectable by pooled HIV RNA testing, with a positive predictive value of 59%. Further research is needed to evaluate this strategy in lower-prevalence populations and in persons using preexposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention.

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