Introduction: German sex workers have illegally established a prevention strategy, which consists of testing potential sexual partners with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) prior to engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse eventually performed in case of a negative test result. Based on a recently established modeling approach, the effectiveness of this strategy regarding the risk of HIV exposure was compared with protection provided by condom use.
Methods: Based on a literature search, the following assumptions were used for the calculations: an averaged 80% exposure risk reduction with a condom used during sexual intercourse, usage of a well-characterized 4th-generation HIV RDT, and a 10 day post-infection period without any measurable viral load in peripheral blood followed by a sero-conversion period of about 3 weeks with 12.3% test sensitivity (antigen-specific) and only afterwards 97.3% (antibody-specific) test sensitivity.
Results: In most constellations, the HIV exposure risk in case of RDT-based prevention was lower than with condom use. Conclusions: The RDT-based HIV exposure prevention as established by sex workers is effective in most situations. A notable weakness of the strategy is the RDTs' poor sensitivity in spite of a high transmission risk during the seroconversion stage.
Keywords: HIV; exposure risk; prevention; rapid testing; risk assessment; sex worker.