A Window into the HIV Epidemic from a South African Emergency Department

Bhakti Hansoti, David Stead, Anna Eisenberg, Nomzamo Mvandaba, George Mwinnyaa, Eshan U. Patel, Andy Parrish, Steven J. Reynolds, Andrew D. Redd, Reinaldo Fernandez, Richard E. Rothman, Oliver Laeyendecker, Thomas C. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the study was to describe the HIV care continuum in emergency department (ED) patients in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. This is a cross-sectional, identity-unlinked serosurvey, whereby discarded/excess samples from all patients who had blood drawn during the study period for routine care and sufficient serum remaining were tested for HIV, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus infection; HIV viral load (VL); and presence of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. We also estimated cross-sectional incidence using the Limiting-Antigen Avidity assay and HIV VL. The study was conducted between September and November 2016 at the Frere Hospital Emergency Department in East London, South Africa. The overall HIV prevalence in our study population was 26.9% [95% confidence interval (CI): 25.0-28.8; n = 2,100]. The highest prevalence was observed among females in the 30-39 years age group [60.3% (95% CI: 53.2-67.1)]. HIV prevalence was significantly higher among females compared with males in both the 20-29 years age group and 30-39 years age group (p <.05), but nearly identical to older age groups. ARV drugs were detected in 53.5% (95% CI: 48.1-58.9) of HIV-infected subjects. The frequency of HIV viral suppression (< 1,000 copies/mL) was 48.5% (95% CI: 44.3-52.7), and was not statistically different between males and females (age-adjusted prevalence ratio = 1.15, 95% CI: 0.95-1.39). The HIV incidence rate was estimated to be 2.6% (95% CI: 1.2-3.9). The Frere Hospital ED has an extremely high burden of HIV infection. The detection of ARV drugs and prevalence of viral suppression fall short of the World Health Organization 90-90-90 goals in this population. Furthermore, there were a large number of patients with recent infection in the ED. The ED is a critical venue for testing and linkage to care of high-yield population who are likely missed by current testing and linkage-to-care programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS research and human retroviruses
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • HIV epidemiology
  • HIV incidence
  • South Africa
  • emergency medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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