Point-of-care-testing (POCT) for HIV at community pharmacies can enhance care linkage compared with self-tests and increase testing uptake relative to standard lab testing. While the higher test uptake may increase testing costs, timely diagnosis and treatment can reduce downstream HIV treatment costs and improve health outcomes. This study provides the first evidence on the cost-effectiveness of pharmacist-led POCT vs. HIV self-testing and standard lab testing.
Dynamic transmission model
We compared three HIV testing strategies: POCT at community pharmacies; self-testing using HIV self-test kits; and standard lab testing. Analyses were conducted from the Canadian health system perspective over a 30-year time horizon for all individuals aged 15–64 years in Canada. Costs were measured in 2021 Canadian dollars and effectiveness was captured using quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).
Compared with standard lab testing, POCT at community pharmacies would save $885 million in testing costs over 30 years. Though antiretroviral treatment costs would increase by $190 million with POCT as more persons living with HIV are identified and treated, these additional costs would be partly offset by their lower downstream healthcare utilization (savings of $150 million). POCT at community pharmacies would also yield over 5000 additional QALYs. Compared with HIV self-testing, POCT at community pharmacies would generate both higher costs and higher QALYs and would be cost-effective with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $47 475 per QALY gained.
Offering POCT at community pharmacies can generate substantial cost savings and improve health outcomes compared with standard lab testing. It would also be cost-effective vs. HIV self-testing.