Research Article: Impact of Round-the-Clock, Rapid Oral Fluid HIV Testing of Women in Labor in Rural India

Date Published: May 6, 2008

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Nitika Pant Pai, Ritu Barick, Jacqueline P Tulsky, Poonam V Shivkumar, Deborah Cohan, Shriprakash Kalantri, Madhukar Pai, Marina B Klein, Shakuntala Chhabra, David Celentano

Abstract: BackgroundTesting pregnant women for HIV at the time of labor and delivery is the last opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) measures, particularly in settings where women do not receive adequate antenatal care. However, HIV testing and counseling of pregnant women in labor is a challenge, especially in resource-constrained settings. In India, many rural women present for delivery without any prior antenatal care. Those who do get antenatal care are not always tested for HIV, because of deficiencies in the provision of HIV testing and counseling services. In this context, we investigated the impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid, point-of-care HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward at a tertiary care hospital in rural India.Methods and FindingsAfter they provided written informed consent, women admitted to the labor ward of a rural teaching hospital in India were offered two rapid tests on oral fluid and finger-stick specimens (OraQuick Rapid HIV-1/HIV-2 tests, OraSure Technologies). Simultaneously, venous blood was drawn for conventional HIV ELISA testing. Western blot tests were performed for confirmatory testing if women were positive by both rapid tests and dual ELISA, or where test results were discordant. Round-the-clock (24 h, 7 d/wk) abbreviated prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions were offered as part of the testing strategy. HIV-positive women were administered PMTCT interventions. Of 1,252 eligible women (age range 18 y to 38 y) approached for consent over a 9 mo period in 2006, 1,222 (98%) accepted HIV testing in the labor ward. Of these, 1,003 (82%) women presented with either no reports or incomplete reports of prior HIV testing results at the time of admission to the labor ward. Of 1,222 women, 15 were diagnosed as HIV-positive (on the basis of two rapid tests, dual ELISA and Western blot), yielding a seroprevalence of 1.23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61%–1.8%). Of the 15 HIV test–positive women, four (27%) had presented with reported HIV status, and 11 (73%) new cases of HIV infection were detected due to rapid testing in the labor room. Thus, 11 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions on account of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing and counseling in the labor room. While both OraQuick tests (oral and finger-stick) were 100% specific, one false-negative result was documented (with both oral fluid and finger-stick specimens). Of the 15 HIV-infected women who delivered, 13 infants were HIV seronegative at birth and at 1 and 4 mo after delivery; two HIV-positive infants died within a month of delivery.ConclusionsIn a busy rural labor ward setting in India, we demonstrated that it is feasible to introduce a program of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing, including prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions. Our data suggest that the availability of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing resulted in successful documentation of HIV serostatus in a large proportion (82%) of rural women who were unaware of their HIV status when admitted to the labor room. In addition, 11 (73%) of a total of 15 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions because of round-the-clock rapid testing in the labor ward. These findings are relevant for PMTCT programs in developing countries.

Partial Text: Worldwide, about 18 (45%) of 40 million HIV-infected individuals are women [1]. The vast majority (60%) of new HIV infections occur in women of reproductive age and in infants and children [1]. With only 9% of pregnant women receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) (as compared to the UNAIDS/WHO target of 80%), an urgent scaling up of HIV prevention efforts are needed to avert a pediatric HIV epidemic [1]. Controlling HIV infection in women and children is crucial for changing the trajectory of the global HIV epidemic.

HIV testing of pregnant women during labor and delivery is one of the last opportunities to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, especially in women who do not have access to antenatal care and HIV testing services early in pregnancy. In India, a sizeable proportion of rural women present to hospitals for delivery without any prior antenatal care [10,11]. Even those women who do receive some antenatal care do not always get tested for HIV for various reasons.



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