A costing analysis of B-GAP: index-linked HIV testing for children and adolescents in Zimbabwe

Background By testing children and adolescents of HIV positive caretakers, index-linked HIV testing, a targeted HIV testing strategy, has the ability to identify high risk children and adolescents earlier and more efficiently, compared to blanket testing. We evaluated the incremental cost of integrating index-linked HIV testing via three modalities into HIV services in Zimbabwe. Methods A mixture of bottom-up and top-down costing was employed to estimate the provider cost per test and per HIV diagnosis for 2–18 year olds, through standard of care testing, and the incremental cost of index-linked HIV testing via three modalities: facility-based testing, home-based testing by a healthcare worker, and testing at home by the caregiver using an oral mucosal transudate test. In addition to interviews, direct observation and study process data, facility registries were abstracted to extract outcome data and resource use. Costs were converted to 2019 constant US$. Results The average cost per standard of care test in urban facilities was US$5.91 and US$7.15 at the rural facility. Incremental cost of an index-linked HIV test was driven by the uptake and number of participants tested. The lowest cost approach in the urban setting was home-based testing (US$6.69) and facility-based testing at the rural clinic (US$5.36). Testing by caregivers was almost always the most expensive option (rural US$62.49, urban US$17.49). Conclusions This is the first costing analysis of index-linked HIV testing strategies. Unit costs varied across sites and with uptake. When scaling up, alternative testing solutions that increase efficiency such as index-linked HIV testing of the entire household, as opposed to solely targeting children/adolescents, need to be explored.