Background In most high HIV burden countries, many HIV patients do not have reliable access to required diagnostic laboratory tests. Task shifting of clinical tasks to lower cadres of health care workers and lay counselors has been successful in scaling up treatment for HIV and may also be an effective strategy in expanding access to essential diagnostic testing. Methods We screened major electronic databases between 1 January 2005 to 26 August 2018 to identify studies assessing ease of use and accuracy of task shifting of HIV-related diagnostic testing and/or specimen collection to non-laboratory health staff. Two independent reviewers screened all titles and abstracts for studies that analyzed diagnostic accuracy, patient impact, ease-of-use, or cost-effectiveness. Studies were assessed for quality, bias, and applicability following the QUADAS-2 framework. We generated summary estimates using random-effects meta-analyses. Results We identified 42 relevant studies. Overall, point-of-care CD4 testing performed by non-laboratory staff had a mean bias of -54.44 (95% CI: -72.40 –-36.48) compared to conventional laboratory-based. Though studies were limited, the diagnostic accuracy of point-of-care alanine transaminase enzyme (ALT) and hemoglobin testing performed by non-laboratory staff was comparable to conventional laboratory-based testing by laboratory professionals. Point-of-care testing and/or specimen collection were generally found to be acceptable and easy to use for non-laboratory staff. Conclusions Task shifting of testing using point-of-care technologies to non-laboratory staff was comparable to laboratory professionals operating the same technology in the laboratory. Some variability was observed comparing the performance of point-of-care CD4 testing by non-laboratory staff to conventional laboratory-based technologies by laboratory professionals indicating potential lower performance was likely technological rather than operator caused. The benefits of task shifting of testing may outweigh any possible harms as task shifting allows for increased decentralization, access of specific diagnostics, and faster result delivery.
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