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Am J Med. 2005 Mar;118(3):292-300.

Routine human immunodeficiency virus testing: an economic evaluation of current guidelines.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Partners AIDS Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA. rwalensky@partners.org



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) counseling, testing, and referral for all patients in hospitals with an HIV prevalence of >or=1%. The 1% screening threshold has not been critically examined since HIV became effectively treatable in 1995. Our objective was to evaluate the clinical effect and cost-effectiveness of current guidelines and of alternate HIV prevalence thresholds.


We performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using a computer simulation model of HIV screening and disease as applied to inpatients in U.S. hospitals.


At an undiagnosed inpatient HIV prevalence of 1% and an overall participation rate of 33%, HIV screening increased mean quality-adjusted life expectancy by 6.13 years per 1000 inpatients, with a cost-effectiveness ratio of 35,400 dollars per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained. Expansion of screening to settings with a prevalence as low as 0.1% increased the ratio to 64,500 dollars per QALY gained. Increasing counseling and testing costs from 53 dollars to 103 dollars per person still yielded a cost-effectiveness ratio below 100,000 dollars per QALY gained at a prevalence of undiagnosed infection of 0.1%.


Routine inpatient HIV screening programs are not only cost-effective but would likely remain so at a prevalence of undiagnosed HIV infection 10 times lower than recommended thresholds. The current HIV counseling, testing, and referral guidelines should now be implemented nationwide as a way of linking infected patients to life-sustaining care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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