A Novel HIV-1 RNA Testing Intervention to Detect Acute and Prevalent HIV Infection in Young Adults and Reduce HIV Transmission in Kenya: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

Graham SM, Agutu C, van der Elst E, Hassan AS, Gichuru E, Mugo PM, Farquhar C, Babigumira JB, Goodreau SM, Hamilton DT, Ndung'u T, Sirengo M, Chege W, Sanders EJ
JMIR Res Protoc. 2020;9

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BACKGROUND: Detection and management of acute HIV infection (AHI) is a clinical and public health priority, and HIV infections diagnosed among young adults aged 18 to 39 years are usually recent. Young adults with recent HIV acquisition frequently seek care for symptoms and could potentially be diagnosed through the health care system. Early recognition of HIV infection provides considerable individual and public health benefits, including linkage to treatment as prevention, access to risk reduction counseling and treatment, and notification of partners in need of HIV testing. OBJECTIVE: The Tambua Mapema Plus study aims to (1) test 1500 young adults (aged 18-39 years) identified by an AHI screening algorithm for acute and prevalent (ie, seropositive) HIV, linking all newly diagnosed HIV-infected patients to care and offering immediate treatment; (2) offer assisted HIV partner notification services to all patients with HIV, testing partners for acute and prevalent HIV infection and identifying local sexual networks; and (3) model the potential impact of these two interventions on the Kenyan HIV epidemic, estimating incremental costs per HIV infection averted, death averted, and disability-adjusted life year averted using data on study outcomes. METHODS: A modified stepped-wedge design is evaluating the yield of this HIV testing intervention at 4 public and 2 private health facilities in coastal Kenya before and after intervention delivery. The intervention uses point-of-care HIV-1 RNA testing combined with standard rapid antibody tests to diagnose AHI and prevalent HIV among young adults presenting for care, employs HIV partner notification services to identify linked acute and prevalent infections, and follows all newly diagnosed patients and their partners for 12 months to ascertain clinical outcomes, including linkage to care, antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation and virologic suppression in HIV-infected patients, and pre-exposure prophylaxis uptake in uninfected individuals in discordant partnerships. RESULTS: Enrollment started in December 2017. As of April 2020, 1374 participants have been enrolled in the observation period and 1500 participants have been enrolled in the intervention period, with 13 new diagnoses (0.95%) in the observation period and 37 new diagnoses (2.47%), including 2 AHI diagnoses, in the intervention period. Analysis is ongoing and will include adjusted comparisons of the odds of the following outcomes in the observation and intervention periods: being tested for HIV infection, newly diagnosed with prevalent or acute HIV infection, linked to care, and starting ART by week 6 following HIV diagnosis. Participants newly diagnosed with acute or prevalent HIV infection in the intervention period are being followed for outcomes, including viral suppression by month 6 and month 12 following ART initiation and partner testing outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: The Tambua Mapema Plus study will provide foundational data on the potential of this novel combination HIV prevention intervention to reduce ongoing HIV transmission in Kenya and other high-prevalence African settings. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03508908; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03508908. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/16198.