Objectives: Acute febrile illnesses consistent with malaria are the most common presentation at health clinics in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 30-50% of outpatient visits. The symptoms of acute HIV infection can mimic acute malaria. We investigated whether acute HIV infections could be identified among adults with suspected malaria at rural health centers in Uganda.
Design: A cross-sectional study of 1000 consecutive patients referred for malaria blood smears at each of seven government health centers, of which 2893 (41%) were 13 years or older and tested for HIV.
Methods: HIV enzyme immunoassay antibody testing was performed on dried blood spots and confirmed by western blot. Enzyme immunoassay-nonreactive and enzyme immunoassay-reactive, western blot-unconfirmed samples were pooled (10/pool) and tested for HIV RNA by nucleic acid amplification testing. We defined acute HIV infection as HIV-1 RNA positive with a negative or indeterminate HIV-1 western blot pattern and early HIV infection as HIV-1 RNA positive with a positive western blot pattern, but with a BED-corrected optical density of below 0.8.
Results: Of 2893 patients evaluated, 324 (11%) had test results indicating HIV infection. Overall, 30 patients (1.0%) had acute HIV infection, 56 (1.8%) had early HIV infection, and 238 (8%) had established HIV infection. Acute HIV infections were more prevalent at sites with higher HIV prevalence and lower malaria endemicity.
Conclusion: At multiple sites in Uganda, 1-3% of adults with suspected malaria had acute or early HIV infection. These findings highlight a major opportunity for expanding recognition of acute and early HIV infection in Africa.