The objective of this research was to estimate the cost-effectiveness of relevant HIV screening strategies for the antenatal population in the US Virgin Islands. Preventing HIV transmission is a worldwide public health issue. Vertical transmission of HIV from a mother can be prevented with diagnosis and treatment, but screening incurs cost. The U.S. Virgin Islands follows the mainland policy on antenatal screening for HIV even though HIV prevalence is higher and rates of antenatal care are lower. This leads to many cases of vertically transmitted HIV. A better policy is required for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
An economic model was used to evaluate the incremental costs and incremental health benefits of nine different combinations of perinatal HIV screening strategies as compared to existing practice from a societal perspective. Three opportunities for screening were considered in isolation and in combination: by 14 weeks gestation, at the onset of labor, or of the infant after birth. The main outcome measure was the cost per life year gained (LYG).
Results indicate that all strategies would produce benefits and save costs. Universal screening by 14 weeks gestation and screening the infant after birth is the recommended strategy, with cost savings of $1,122,787 and health benefits of 310 LYG. Limitations include the limited research on the variations in screening acceptance of screening based on specimen sample, race and economic status. The benefits of screening after 14 weeks gestation but before the onset of labor were also not addressed.
This study highlights the benefits of offering screening at different opportunities and repeat screening and raises the question of generalizing these results to other countries with similar characteristics.