Impact of point-of-care CD4 testing on linkage to HIV care: a systematic review
Point-of-care testing for CD4 cell count is considered a promising way of reducing the time to eligibility assessment for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and of increasing retention in care prior to treatment initiation. In this review, we assess the available evidence on the patient and programme impact of point-of-care CD4 testing.
We searched nine databases and two conference sites (up until 26 October 2013) for studies reporting patient and programme outcomes following the introduction of point-of-care CD4 testing. Where appropriate, results were pooled using random-effects methods.
Fifteen studies, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, were included for review, providing evidence for adults, adolescents, children and pregnant women. Compared to conventional laboratory-based testing, point-of-care CD4 testing increased the likelihood of having CD4 measured [odds ratio (OR) 4.1, 95% CI 3.54.9, n2] and receiving a CD4 result (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.55.6, n6). Time to being tested was significantly reduced, by a median of nine days; time from CD4 testing to receiving the result was reduced by as much as 17 days. Evidence for increased treatment initiation was mixed.
The results of this review suggest that point-of-care CD4 testing can increase retention in care prior to starting treatment and can also reduce time to eligibility assessment, which may result in more eligible patients being initiated on ART.