Background: The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets have reinforced the importance of functioning laboratory services to ensure prompt diagnosis and to assess treatment efficacy. We surveyed the availability and utilization of technologies for HIV treatment monitoring and early infant diagnosis (EID) in World Health Organization (WHO) Member States.
Methods and findings: The survey questionnaire included 14 structured questions focusing on HIV testing, cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) testing, HIV viral load (VL) testing, and EID and was administered annually from 2012 to 2014 through WHO country offices, with each survey covering the previous 12-mo period. Across 127 targeted countries, survey response rates were 60% in 2012, 67% in 2013, and 78% in 2014. There were encouraging trends towards increased procurement of CD4 and VL/EID instruments in reporting countries. Globally, the capacity of available CD4 instruments was sufficient to meet the demand of all people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), irrespective of treatment status (4.62 theoretical tests per PLWHA in 2013 [median 7.33; interquartile range (IQR) 3.44-17.75; median absolute deviation (MAD) 4.35]). The capacity of VL instruments was inadequate to cover all PLWHA in many reporting countries (0.44 tests per PLWHA in 2013 [median 0.90; IQR 0.30-2.40; MAD 0.74]). Of concern, only 13.7% of existing CD4 capacity (median 4.3%; IQR 1.1%-12.1%; MAD 3.8%) and only 36.5% of existing VL capacity (median 9.4%; IQR 2.3%-28.9%; MAD 8.2%) was being utilized across reporting countries in 2013. By the end of 2013, 7.4% of all CD4 instruments (5.8% CD4 conventional instruments and 11.0% of CD4 point of care [POC]) and 10% of VL/EID instruments were reportedly not in use because of lack of reagents, the equipment not being installed or deployed, maintenance, and staff training requirements. Major limitations of this survey included under-reporting and/or incomplete reporting in some national programmes and noncoverage of the private sector.
Conclusion: This is the first attempt to comprehensively gather information on HIV testing technology coverage in WHO Member States. The survey results suggest that major operational changes will need to be implemented, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, if the 90-90-90 targets are to be met.