HIV Viral Load and Early Infant Diagnosis technologies in many high burden settings are restricted to centralized laboratory testing, leading to long result turnaround times and patient attrition. GeneXpert (Cepheid, CA, USA) is a polyvalent near point-of-care platform and is widely implemented for Xpert MTB/RIF diagnosis. This study sought to evaluate the operational feasibility of integrated HIV VL, EID and MTB/RIF testing in new GeneXpert platforms.
Whole blood samples were collected from consenting patients due for routine HIV VL testing and DBS samples from infants due for EID testing, at three rural health facilities in Zimbabwe. Sputum samples were collected from all individuals suspected of TB. GeneXpert testing was reserved for all EID, all TB suspects and priority HIV VL at each site. Blood samples were further sent to centralized laboratories for confirmatory testing. GeneXpert polyvalent testing results and patient outcomes, including infrastructural and logistical requirements are reported. The study was conducted over a 10-month period.
The fully automated GeneXpert testing device, required minimal training and biosafety considerations. A total of 1,302 HIV VL, 277 EID and 1,581 MTB/RIF samples were tested on a four module GeneXpert platform in each study site. Xpert HIV-1 VL testing was prioritized for patients who presented with advanced HIV disease, pregnant women, adolescents and suspected ART failures patients. On average, the study sites had a GeneXpert utilization rate of 50.4% (Gutu Mission Hospital), 63.5% (Murambinda Mission Hospital) and 17.5% (Chimombe Rural Health Centre) per month. GeneXpert polyvalent testing error rates remained lower than 4% in all sites. Decentralized EID and VL testing on Xpert had shorter overall median TAT (1 day [IQR: 0–4] and 1 day [IQR: 0–1] respectively) compared to centralized testing (17 days [IQR: 13–21] and 26 days [IQR: 23–32] respectively). Among patients with VL >1000 copies/ml (73/640; 11.4%) at GMH health facility, median time to enhanced adherence counselling was 8 days and majority of those with documented outcomes had re-suppressed VL (20/32; 62.5%). Median time to ART initiation among Xpert EID positive infants at GMH was 1 day [IQR: 0–1].
Implementation of near point-of-care GeneXpert platform for integrated multi-disease testing within district and sub-district healthcare settings is feasible and will increase access to VL, and EID testing to priority populations. Quality management systems including monitoring of performance indicators, together with regular on-site supervision are crucial, and near-POC test results must be promptly actioned-on by clinicians for patient management.