Improving Early Infant Diagnosis Observations

Estimates of Timely HIV Testing and Mortality Among HIV-Exposed Infants

Karen Webb, MSc; Vivian Chitiyo, MPhil; Nyikadzino Mahachi, MD, MPH; Solomon Huruva Mukungunugwa, MD, MBChB, MPH; Angela Mushavi, MBChB, MMed; Simukai Zizhou, MBChB, MPH; Barbara Engelsmann, MD, MPH; Rashida Abbas Ferrand, MD, MSc, PhD; Melissa Neuman, ScD, MS; Wendy Hartogensis, PhD, MPH; Elvin Geng, MD, MPH


J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2020;83(3):235-239. 

In This Article


Study Design

We defined LTFU as no documented sample taken for EID polymerase chain reaction testing among infants of HIV-positive antenatal care (ANC) patients within 90 days of delivery. At the time of study, Zimbabwe HIV care and treatment guidelines recommended HIV testing of all exposed children 6 weeks postnatal.[8] Our sample included all women with HIV who accessed ANC at public sector health facilities in Mashonaland East Province (referral sites excluded), using a multistage clustered survey sampling approach.

Phase I: Register Tracing. We selected 5 clinics from each of the 9 districts within Mashonaland East Province based on probability proportional to size, using program data on HIV-positive women accessing ANC over the previous year. In the absence of interfacility-linked electronic patient monitoring systems, we used a combination of individual identifiers including clinic-allocated PMTCT number, patient name, and date of birth to trace each identified HIV-positive pregnant woman in ANC and her HIV-exposed infant through 5 paper-based registers (ANC, delivery, HIV-exposed infants, clinic registers, HIV infant diagnosis, and EID lab request form booklets) to determine LTFU for EID status. We targeted a random sample of at least 10% of lost MB pairs based on practical considerations regarding limitations of completeness and accuracy of patient information in multiple paper-based registers[9] and available resources to intensively trace those identified as LTFU for EID over the study timeframe. Based on known challenges in tracing defaulters from HIV care and treatment,[10–12] we over-sampled by 100% to ensure we met our target sample.

Phase II: Tracing of LTFU MB Pairs. In the second stage of sampling, a random sample of patients identified as lacking documented EID in Stage 1 was selected for active tracing to determine outcomes through direct patient interviews. We trained MOHCC village health workers as ascertainers due to their familiarity with the surrounding community and existing role to support health facilities with defaulter tracing.[13,14]

Village health workers were assigned selected LTFU patients residing within their geographical catchment area for tracing. If the individual was unable to be located, mother and infant vital status was obtained from informants (friends, neighbors, or relatives); however, to maintain confidentiality, informants were not asked any specific questions related to HIV services. Successfully traced and consenting mothers were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire to ascertain survival outcomes, EID status and timing, and reasons for failure to obtain EID or for self-transfer of care to another facility. Analyses were conducted using Stata v.13.1. This study was approved by the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe (MRCZ/A/1844) and MOHCC authorities.


EID Estimates. First, we estimated EID incidence based on clinic registry data only, using facility weights inverse to the probability of clinic selection to yield an estimate of EID completion based purely on paper registers kept at the facilities. Facility and individual factors on documented completion of EID were explored using Poisson regression with robust standard errors adjusted for confounders to estimate risk ratios (RRs).[15,16]

Second, we generated corrected estimates of EID completion using data from clinic registries as well as data ascertained through interviews with a random sample of MB pairs missing EID in facility-based registers.[7] Deaths before EID (including fetal deaths) were considered as competing risks. To obtain an estimate corrected for outcomes not captured in the facility registers, we used additional sampling weights inverse to the probability of being successfully sought to represent all LTFU HIV-infected pregnant women at each clinic.

Among women with no documented EID in facility registers who were traced and interviewed, reasons for silent transfer to a different clinic from ANC for EID and for not bringing HIV-exposed child in for HIV testing (no EID) were grouped into 4 categories informed by a socioecological framework:[17,18] structural; clinic-based; psychosocial or patient-related; or medical factors.

Mortality Estimates

For the weighted mortality estimate, the traced patients contributed time from the delivery date to the date of the patient interview or the date of the death of the infant at any time prior (ie, all deaths including those later than 90 days were included in the mortality estimate); patients with documented EID contributed time from the date of delivery to the date of the 6-week postnatal visit, which is the latest date at which we have confirmed vital status for those infants. Kaplan–Meier methods were used to estimate mortality.