COVID-19 impact on index testing services and programmatic cost in 5 high HIV prevalence Indian districts

BMC Infect Dis. 2022 Dec 8;22(1):918. doi: 10.1186/s12879-022-07912-3.


Background: Restrictions to curb the first wave of COVID-19 in India resulted in a decline in facility-based HIV testing rates, likely contributing to increased HIV transmission and disease progression. The programmatic and economic impact of COVID-19 on index testing, a standardized contact tracing strategy, remains unknown.

Methods: Retrospective programmatic and costing data were analyzed under a US government-supported program to assess the pandemic's impact on the programmatic outcomes and cost of index testing implemented in two Indian states (Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh). We compared index testing continuum outcomes during lockdown (April-June 2020) and post-lockdown (July-Sept 2020) relative to pre-lockdown (January-March 2020) by estimating adjusted rate ratios (aRRs) using negative binomial regression. Startup and recurrent programmatic costs were estimated across geographies using a micro-costing approach. Per unit costs were calculated for each index testing continuum outcome.

Results: Pre-lockdown, 2431 index clients were offered services, 3858 contacts were elicited, 3191 contacts completed HIV testing, 858 contacts tested positive, and 695 contacts initiated ART. Compared to pre-lockdown, the number of contacts elicited decreased during lockdown (aRR = 0.13; 95% CI: 0.11-0.16) and post-lockdown (aRR = 0.49; 95% CI: 0.43-0.56); and the total contacts newly diagnosed with HIV also decreased during lockdown (aRR = 0.22; 95% CI: 0.18-0.26) and post-lockdown (aRR = 0.52; 95% CI: 0.45-0.59). HIV positivity increased from 27% pre-lockdown to 40% during lockdown and decreased to 26% post-lockdown. Further, ART initiation improved from 81% pre-lockdown to 88% during lockdown and post-lockdown. The overall cost to operate index testing was $193,457 pre-lockdown and decreased during lockdown to $132,177 (32%) and $126,155 (35%) post-lockdown. Post-lockdown unit cost of case identification rose in facility sites ($372) compared to pre-lockdown ($205), however it decreased in community-based sites from pre-lockdown ($277) to post-lockdown ($166).

Conclusions: There was a dramatic decline in the number of index testing clients in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions that resulted in higher unit costs to deliver services; yet, improved linkage to ART suggests that decongesting centres could improve efficiency. Training index testing staff to provide support across services including non-facility-based HIV testing mechanisms (i.e., telemedicine, HIV self-testing, community-based approaches) may help optimize resources during public health emergencies.

Keywords: Cost analysis; HIV; Index testing; India.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies