Rapid Diagnostic Testing of Hospitalized Malawian Children Reveals Opportunities for Improved HIV Diagnosis and Treatment

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2017 Dec;97(6):1929-1935. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.17-0067. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Recent World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all HIV-infected people; previously CD4+ T lymphocyte quantification (CD4 count) or clinical staging determined eligibility for children ≥ 5 years old in low- and middle-income countries. We examined positive predictive value (PPV) of a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) algorithm and ART eligibility for hospitalized children with newly diagnosed HIV infection. We enrolled 363 hospitalized Malawian children age 2 months to 16 years with two serial positive HIV RDT from 2013 to 2015. Children aged ≤ 18 months whose nucleic acid testing was negative or unavailable were later excluded from the analysis (N = 16). If RNA PCR was undetectable, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and western blot (WB) were performed. Those with negative or discordant EIA and WB were considered HIV negative and excluded from further analysis (N = 6). ART eligibility was assessed using age, CD4 count, and clinical HIV stage. Among 150 patients with HIV RNA PCR results, 15 had undetectable HIV RNA. Of those, EIA and WB were positive in nine patients and negative or discordant in six patients. PPV of serial RDT was 90% versus RNA PCR alone and 96% versus combined RNA PCR, EIA, and WB. Of all patients aged ≥ 5 years, 8.9% were ineligible for ART under previous WHO guidelines. Improved HIV testing algorithms are needed for accurate diagnosis of HIV infection in children as prevalence of pediatric HIV declines. Universal treatment will significantly increase the numbers of older children who qualify for ART.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Male
  • World Health Organization