Accurate HIV and CD4 testing are critical in program implementation, with HIV misdiagnosis having serious consequences at both the client and/or community level. We implemented a comprehensive training and Quality Assurance (QA) program to ensure accuracy of point-of-care HIV and CD4 count testing by lay counsellors during the Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP). We compared the performance of field testing by lay counsellors to results from an accredited laboratory to ascertain accuracy of testing. All trained lay counsellors passed competency assessments and performed satisfactorily in proficiency testing panel evaluations in 2013, 2014, and 2015. There was excellent agreement (99.6 %) between field and laboratory-based HIV test results; of the 3002 samples tested, 960 and 2030 were concordantly positive and negative respectively, with 12 misclassifications (kappa score 0.99, p < 0.0001). Of the 149 HIV-positive samples enumerated for CD4 count in the field using PIMA at a threshold of ≤ 350 cells/µl; there was 86 % agreement with laboratory testing, with only 21 misclassified. The mean difference between field and lab CD4 testing was - 16.16 cells/µl (95 % CI -5.4 to 26.9). Overall, there was excellent agreement between field and laboratory results for both HIV rapid test and PIMA CD4 results. A standard training package to train lay counsellors to accurately perform HIV and CD4 point-of-care testing in field settings was feasible, with point-of-care results obtained by lay counsellors comparable to laboratory-based testing.
Keywords: CD4; HIV; Lay counsellors; Rapid test; Training.