High HIV prevalence among decedents received by two high-volume mortuaries in Kisumu, western Kenya, 2019

PLoS One. 2021 Jul 1;16(7):e0253516. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253516. eCollection 2021.


Background: Accurate data on HIV-related mortality are necessary to evaluate the impact of HIV interventions. In low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), mortality data obtained through civil registration are often of poor quality. Though not commonly conducted, mortuary surveillance is a potential complementary source of data on HIV-associated mortality.

Methods: During April-July 2019, we assessed HIV prevalence, the attributable fraction among the exposed, and the population attributable fraction among decedents received by two high-volume mortuaries in Kisumu County, Kenya, where HIV prevalence in the adult population was estimated at 18% in 2019 with high ART coverage (76%). Stillbirths were excluded. The two mortuaries receive 70% of deaths notified to the Kisumu East civil death registry; this registry captures 45% of deaths notified in Kisumu County. We conducted hospital chart reviews to determine the HIV status of decedents. Decedents without documented HIV status, including those dead on arrival, were tested using HIV antibody tests or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) consistent with national HIV testing guidelines. Decedents aged less than 15 years were defined as children. We estimated annual county deaths by applying weights that incorporated the study period, coverage of deaths, and mortality rates observed in the study.

Results: The two mortuaries received a total of 1,004 decedents during the study period, of which 95.1% (955/1004) were available for study; 89.1% (851/955) of available decedents were enrolled of whom 99.4% (846/851) had their HIV status available from medical records and post-mortem testing. The overall population-based, age- and sex-adjusted mortality rate was 12.4 per 1,000 population. The unadjusted HIV prevalence among decedents was 28.5% (95% confidence interval (CI): 25.5-31.6). The age- and sex-adjusted mortality rate in the HIV-infected population (40.7/1000 population) was four times higher than in the HIV-uninfected population (10.2/1000 population). Overall, the attributable fraction among the HIV-exposed was 0.71 (95% CI: 0.66-0.76) while the HIV population attributable fraction was 0.17 (95% CI: 0.14-0.20). In children the attributable fraction among the exposed and population attributable fraction were 0.92 (95% CI: 0.89-0.94) and 0.11 (95% CI: 0.08-0.15), respectively.

Conclusions: Over one quarter (28.5%) of decedents received by high-volume mortuaries in western Kenya were HIV-positive; overall, HIV was considered the cause of death in 17% of the population (19% of adults and 11% of children). Despite substantial scale-up of HIV services, HIV disease remains a leading cause of death in western Kenya. Despite progress, increased efforts remain necessary to prevent and treat HIV infection and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morgue / statistics & numerical data*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Young Adult