Objective: To estimate the cost, effectiveness, and cost effectiveness of HIV and HCV screening of injection drug users (IDUs) in opioid replacement therapy (ORT).
Design: Dynamic compartmental model of HIV and HCV in a population of IDUs and non-IDUs for a representative U.S. urban center with 2.5 million adults (age 15-59).
Methods: We considered strategies of screening individuals in ORT for HIV, HCV, or both infections by antibody or antibody and viral RNA testing. We evaluated one-time and repeat screening at intervals from annually to once every 3 months. We calculated the number of HIV and HCV infections, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs).
Results: Adding HIV and HCV viral RNA testing to antibody testing averts 14.8-30.3 HIV and 3.7-7.7 HCV infections in a screened population of 26,100 IDUs entering ORT over 20 years, depending on screening frequency. Screening for HIV antibodies every 6 months costs $30,700/QALY gained. Screening for HIV antibodies and viral RNA every 6 months has an ICER of $65,900/QALY gained. Strategies including HCV testing have ICERs exceeding $100,000/QALY gained unless awareness of HCV-infection status results in a substantial reduction in needle-sharing behavior.
Discussion: Although annual screening for antibodies to HIV and HCV is modestly cost effective compared to no screening, more frequent screening for HIV provides additional benefit at less cost. Screening individuals in ORT every 3-6 months for HIV infection using both antibody and viral RNA technologies and initiating ART for acute HIV infection appears cost effective.