Introduction: Testing for recent HIV infection can distinguish recently acquired infection from long-standing infections. Given current interest in the implementation of recent infection testing algorithms (RITA), we report our experiences in implementing a RITA in three pilot studies and highlight important issues to consider when conducting recency testing in routine settings. Methods: We applied a RITA, incorporating a limited antigen (LAg) avidity assay, in different routine HIV service-delivery settings in 2018: antenatal care clinics in Siaya County, Kenya, HIV testing and counselling facilities in Nairobi, Kenya, and female sex workers clinics in Zimbabwe. Discussions were conducted with study coordinators, laboratory leads, and facility-based stakeholders to evaluate experiences and lessons learned in relation to implementing recency testing. Results: In Siaya County 10/426 (2.3%) of women testing HIV positive were classified as recent, compared to 46/530 (8.7%) of women and men in Nairobi and 33/313 (10.5%) of female sex workers in Zimbabwe. Across the study setting, we observed differences in acceptance, transport and storage of dried blood spot (DBS) or venous blood samples. For example, the acceptance rate when testing venous blood was 11% lower than when using DBS. Integrating our study into existing services ensured a quick start of the study and kept the amount of additional resources required low. From a laboratory perspective, the LAg avidity assay was initially difficult to operationalise, but developing a network of laboratories and experts to work together helped to improve this. A challenge that was not overcome was the returning of RITA test results to clients. This was due to delays in laboratory testing, the need for multiple test results to satisfy the RITA, difficulties in aligning clinic visits, and participants opting not to return for test results. Conclusion: We completed three pilot studies using HIV recency testing based on a RITA in Kenya and Zimbabwe. The main lessons we learned were related to sample collection and handling, LAg avidity assay performance, integration into existing services and returning of test results to participants. Our real-world experience could provide helpful guidance to people currently working on the implementation of HIV recency testing in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Grant Number: BMGF OPP1120138).
© 2021, The Author(s).
- Recency testing