HIV testing and counselling couples together for affordable HIV prevention in Africa

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: The impact and cost-effectiveness of couples’ voluntary HIV counselling and testing (CVCT) has not been quantified in real-world settings. We quantify cost-per-HIV-infection averted by CVCT in Zambia from the donor’s perspective. Methods: From 2010 to 2016, CVCT was established in 73 Zambian government clinics. The cost-per-HIV-infection averted (CHIA) of CVCT was calculated using observed expenditures and effectiveness over longitudinal follow-up. These observed measures parameterized hypothetical 5-year nationwide implementations of: ‘CVCT’; ‘treatment-as-prevention (TasP) for discordant couples’ identified by CVCT; and ‘population TasP’ for all HIV+ cohabiting persons identified by individual testing. Results: In all, 207 428 couples were tested (US $52/couple). Among discordant couples in which HIV+ partners self-reported antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV incidence was 8.5/100 person-years before and 1.8/100 person-years after CVCT (79% reduction). Corresponding reductions for non-ART-using discordant and concordant negative couples were 63% and 47%, respectively. CVCT averted an estimated 58% of new infections at US $659 CHIA. In nationwide implementation models, CVCT would prevent 17 times the number of infections vs ‘TasP for discordant couples’ at 86% of the cost, and nine times the infections vs ‘population TasP’ at 28% of the cost. Conclusions: CVCT is a cost-effective, feasible prevention strategy in Zambia. We demonstrate the novel, added effectiveness of providing CVCT to ART users, for whom ART use alone only partially mitigated transmission risk. Our results indicate a major policy shift (supporting development of CVCT indicators, budgets and targets) and have clinical implications (suggesting promotion of CVCT in ART clinics as a high-impact prevention strategy).