To err is human, to correct is public health: a systematic review examining poor quality testing and misdiagnosis of HIV status
INTRODUCTION We describe the overall accuracy and performance of a serial rapid HIV testing algorithm used in community-based HIV testing in the context of a population-based household survey conducted in two sub-districts of uMgungundlovu district, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, against reference fourth-generation HIV-1/2 antibody and p24 antigen combination immunoassays. We discuss implications of the findings on rapid HIV testing programmes. METHODS Cross-sectional design: Following enrolment into the survey, questionnaires were administered to eligible and consenting participants in order to obtain demographic and HIV-related data. Peripheral blood samples were collected for HIV-related testing. Participants were offered community-based HIV testing in the home by trained field workers using a serial algorithm with two rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) in series. In the laboratory, reference HIV testing was conducted using two fourth-generation immunoassays with all positives in the confirmatory test considered true positives. Accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value and false-positive and false-negative rates were determined. RESULTS Of 10,236 individuals enrolled in the survey, 3740 were tested in the home (median age 24 years (interquartile range 19-31 years), 42.1% males and HIV positivity on RDT algorithm 8.0%). From those tested, 3729 (99.7%) had a definitive RDT result as well as a laboratory immunoassay result. The overall accuracy of the RDT when compared to the fourth-generation immunoassays was 98.8% (95% confidence interval (CI) 98.5-99.2). The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value were 91.1% (95% CI 87.5-93.7), 99.9% (95% CI 99.8-100), 99.3% (95% CI 97.4-99.8) and 99.1% (95% CI 98.8-99.4) respectively. The false-positive and false-negative rates were 0.06% (95% CI 0.01-0.24) and 8.9% (95% CI 6.3-12.53). Compared to true positives, false negatives were more likely to be recently infected on limited antigen avidity assay and to report antiretroviral therapy (ART) use. CONCLUSIONS The overall accuracy of the RDT algorithm was high. However, there were few false positives, and the sensitivity was lower than expected with high false negatives, despite implementation of quality assurance measures. False negatives were associated with recent (early) infection and ART exposure. The RDT algorithm was able to correctly identify the majority of HIV infections in community-based HIV testing. Messaging on the potential for false positives and false negatives should be included in these programmes.