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Health Policy Plan. 2014 Jan;29(1):115-26. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czs140. Epub 2013 Jan 15.

Cost-effectiveness of provider-based HIV partner notification in urban Malawi.

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Department of Health Policy and Management CB #7411, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7411, USA. E-mail:


Provider-initiated partner notification for HIV effectively identifies new cases of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, but is not widely implemented. Our objective was to determine whether provider-based HIV partner notification strategies are cost-effective for preventing HIV transmission compared with passive referral. We conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis using a decision-analytic model from the health system perspective during a 1-year period. Costs and outcomes of all strategies were estimated with a decision-tree model. The study setting was an urban sexually transmitted infection clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi, using a hypothetical cohort of 5000 sex partners of 3500 HIV-positive index cases. We evaluated three partner notification strategies: provider notification (provider attempts to notify indexes' locatable partners), contract notification (index given 1 week to notify partners then provider attempts notification) and passive referral (index is encouraged to notify partners, standard of care). Our main outcomes included cost (US dollars) per transmission averted, cost per new case identified and cost per partner tested. Based on estimated transmissions in a 5000-person cohort, provider and contract notification averted 27.9 and 27.5 new infections, respectively, compared with passive referral. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was $3560 per HIV transmission averted for contract notification compared with passive referral. Provider notification was more expensive and slightly more effective than contract notification, yielding an ICER of $51 421 per transmission averted. ICERs were sensitive to the proportion of partners not contacted, but likely HIV positive and the probability of transmission if not on antiretroviral therapy. The costs per new case identified were $36 (provider), $18 (contract) and $8 (passive). The costs per partner tested were $19 (provider), $9 (contract) and $4 (passive). We conclude that, in this population, provider-based notification strategies are potentially cost-effective for identifying new cases of HIV. These strategies offer a simple, effective and easily implementable opportunity to control HIV transmission.


Cost-benefit analysis; HIV; contact tracing; sub-Saharan Africa

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