In 2014, Ontario’s Point-of-Care (POC) test providers were advised to focus efforts on provincially defined priority populations who experience a greater risk of HIV. Our objective was to describe the POC program before, during and after this change, including tester characteristics, follow-up testing results, positive predictive value (PPV) over time, and trends and characteristics of those with reactive test results without a confirmatory serological specimen.
Test-level data of POC screening and confirmatory results were extracted from the Public Health Ontario HIV Datamart. Final test results were defined based on results of the confirmatory blood sample, or the POC test for “non-reactive” tests. Testing volumes, percent of total tests, percent positivity and PPV were calculated overall, annually, and by exposure group.
Overall testing volumes decreased by 39.8% between 2014 and 2018. The majority of confirmed positive tests were in the men who have sex with men (MSM) exposure category, followed by HIV-endemic and heterosexual – no identified risk (heterosexual—NIR). Overall percent positivity decreased from 0.59% in 2011 to 0.42% in 2015 (change of 0.17%, 95% CI 0.03% to 0.31%), increasing to 0.69% in 2018 (change of 0.27%, 95% CI 0.20% to 0.34%). Increases in percent positivity corresponded with a decrease in the overall proportion of tests conducted in low-risk populations. When compared to the heterosexual-NIR category, PPV was significantly higher for men who have sex with men – people who use injection drugs (MSM-PWID) (52.7% compared to 100%, P < .001), MSM (52.7% compared to 95.4%, P < .001), HIV-endemic (52.7% compared to 91.5%, P < .001), heterosexual – partner with identified risk (heterosexual—PIR) (52.7% compared to 77.3%, P = .042), and people who use injection drugs (PWID) (52.7% compared to 81.3%, P = 0.007). A total of 13.5% of reactive POC results did not have a serological sample submitted.
Targeted testing towards populations at higher risk of HIV improved the overall test performance characteristics of Ontario’s POC testing program. While not unexpected, the large discrepancies between PPV in higher-risk, compared to lower-risk populations, suggests the need for greater awareness and messaging of the likelihood of false positive test results in different populations.