Background: Routine HIV screening in emergency department (ED) settings may require dedicated personnel. We evaluated the outcomes, costs and cost-effectiveness of HIV screening when offered by either a member of the ED staff or by an HIV counselor.
Methods: We employed a mathematical model to extend data obtained from a randomized clinical trial of provider- vs. counselor-based HIV screening in the ED. We compared the downstream survival, costs, and cost-effectiveness of three HIV screening modalities: 1) no screening program; 2) an ED provider-based program; and 3) an HIV counselor-based program. Trial arm-specific data were used for test offer and acceptance rates (provider offer 36%, acceptance 75%; counselor offer 80%, acceptance 71%). Undiagnosed HIV prevalence (0.4%) and linkage to care rates (80%) were assumed to be equal between the screening modalities. Personnel costs were derived from trial-based resource utilization data. We examined the generalizability of results by conducting sensitivity analyses on offer and acceptance rates, undetected HIV prevalence, and costs.
Results: Estimated HIV screening costs in the provider and counselor arms averaged $8.10 and $31.00 per result received. The Provider strategy (compared to no screening) had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $58,700/quality-adjusted life year (QALY) and the Counselor strategy (compared to the Provider strategy) had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $64,500/QALY. Results were sensitive to the relative offer and acceptance rates by strategy and the capacity of providers to target-screen, but were robust to changes in undiagnosed HIV prevalence and programmatic costs.
Conclusions: The cost-effectiveness of provider-based HIV screening in an emergency department setting compares favorably to other US screening programs. Despite its additional cost, counselor-based screening delivers just as much return on investment as provider based-screening. Investment in dedicated HIV screening personnel is justified in situations where ED staff resources may be insufficient to provide comprehensive, sustainable screening services.